GOP's "Iran letter" excuse: We were just being "cheeky"

Nothing's funnier than trying to blow up high-stakes multilateral diplomatic talks during crunch time!

Published March 11, 2015 7:00PM (EDT)

  (AP/Danny Johnston)
(AP/Danny Johnston)

Senate Republican aides have a fascinating new retort to those who consider Tom Cotton's letter to Iran a colossal mistake: Lighten up, Francis. Republicans were just having a little bit of fun! Let's see that pretty smile of yours, eh?

"Behind the scenes," the Daily Beast's Tim Mak reports, "Republicans are wondering if sending an open letter to Iran's leaders was the best strategy to keep a bad nuclear deal from being negotiated." Indeed, their "wondering" appears to have led them to the conclusion that it was not the best strategy.

It's the latest and perhaps most damaging move yet from Republicans on the Hill to piss off the Democrats who, not so long ago, were interested in helping them carry out AIPAC's wish to blow up nuclear negotiations with Iran. Republicans have shown themselves willing to sacrifice the prospect of veto-proof legislation in order to collect a few partisan points. (Which is great, by the way. Everyone interested in securing a multilateral diplomatic deal with Iran should thank the Republicans for being incompetent. They always come through!)

So now the Hill Republicans who've recognized that they've made what some would call a tactical mistake are playing Jon Stewart's favorite get-out-of-jail-free card: Don't look at us, we're just comedians! Why so serious?

Republican aides were taken aback by what they thought was a lighthearted attempt to signal to Iran and the public that Congress should have a role in the ongoing nuclear discussions. Two GOP aides separately described their letter as a “cheeky” reminder of the congressional branch’s prerogatives.

“The administration has no sense of humor when it comes to how weakly they have been handling these negotiations,” said a top GOP Senate aide.

Yup, when I think lighthearted humor, the first name that comes to my mind is Senator Tom Cotton. This guy's a stitch -- always joshing with colleagues, planting whoopee cushions under their seats during hearings. Here's a classic example of "Chuckles" Cotton in his element:

"In my opinion, the only problem with Guantanamo Bay is that there are too many empty beds and cells there right now," Cotton, a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, said during the hearing. "We should be sending more terrorists there for further interrogation to keep this country safe. As far I'm concerned, every last one of them can rot in hell. But as long as they don't do that, they can rot in Guantanamo Bay."

Tom Cotton's always having a good laugh. And nothing signals "cheeky" quite like writing a letter to the Islamic Republic of Iran informing them that the Republican party has no intention of honoring any diplomatic deal, negotiated by the six great world powers, if it gets its way. How's Cotton going to follow up this larf? I bet North Korea would get a kick out of the flapping dickey.

Anyway, what were we saying about tactical mistakes? Because describing a major tactical mistake as an attempt to be "cheeky" is also a major tactical mistake.

By Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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