In a move that should put a permanent end to all the silly talk about Rand Paul being a new kind of non-warmongering Republican, the self-certified Kentucky ophthalmologist is one of forty-seven GOP senators to sign an open letter to Iran’s leaders warning of their intentions to scuttle any nuclear deal made with President Barack Obama.
Organized by freshman Senator Tom Cotton and signed by the chamber’s entire party leadership as well as potential 2016 presidential contenders Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, the letter is meant not just to discourage the Iranian regime from signing a deal but also to pressure the White House into giving Congress some authority over the process.
“It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system … Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement,” the senators wrote. “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”
I guarantee the most powerful men in Iran don’t need Republicans to explain the United States system of government to them. But if I held a quiz in Congress to give out cookies to Republicans for correctly answering questions about Iran’s constitution, I would likely wind up eating the whole batch myself, because these people know nothing about Iran except that they’re afraid of it.
Iran is where the pretense of difference between the so-called ‘libertarian wing’ of the GOP and its lunatic John Bolton faction collapses, and all conservatives become neoconservatives. Because Tehran has become the main focus of apocalypse hysteria in the conservative movement, Rand Paul can’t win the party’s nomination in 2016 with don’t-drone-me-bro isolationism.
And the right wing base wants to undo every last thing that Obama ever did, especially if it limits nuclear proliferation or makes the Middle East less volatile. I am not exaggerating: this open letter is another example of the overweening power of reactionary religiosity within the GOP, which has become rather disturbing in its idolization of the ‘god-like’ power of nuclear weapons since 2001.
Whereas liberals tend to dismiss and ridicule ‘End Times’ goofiness even when they are strong supporters of Israel, apocalyptic beliefs are in fact the core motivation in the party base propelling national officeholders to provoke confrontations with the president over his Middle East policy and nuclear nonproliferation policy. John Boehner demonstrated the power of this fundamentalist lobby when he invited Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress; one might as well call it ‘government by televangelists.’
At its dissonant center, the issue is really about two incompatible views of Iran. On the one hand, hawks want us to believe the regime is utterly psychotic and incapable of making an honest deal regarding uranium enrichment; on the other hand, they also want us to believe the regime is rational enough to be deterred by even harsher sanctions than the already-harsh ones President Obama enacted in order to bring Iran to the bargaining table in the first place.
This dissonance is rationalized at Obama, who is viewed with paranoid suspicion by a political movement which revels in fantasy projections about his character, motivations, and purposes. To them, he’s literally the antichrist, so whatever bargain Obama may strike with Iran is automagically suspect at best.
Placing party over country, the GOP is sending us all an important message about what they value in American foreign policy: more wars in the Middle East. By taking part in it, Rand Paul is dispelling the illusion that he’s a substantially different kind of Republican.