I’ve heard more about the Logan Act from armchair political science scholars in my Facebook feed in two days than I heard in actual political science classes.
This is all because, apparently, a bunch of Senators who wrote a letter confirming that the Obama Administration couldn’t unilaterly approve a nuclear technology treaty with Iran without first consulting Congress. Suddenly, they’re “siding with hardliners” (as though there is anything but in Iran) and undermining the authority of the President (to do, what, exactly?), even though John Kerry himself admits that nothing hammered out with Iran is final or legally biding. As fantastic as the letter has been for Obama’s standup comedy career, it does drive home the point that any agreement reached is temporary, at best.
But Facebook civics being as it is, a whopping 140,000 people, more or less, have signed a We the People Petition asking the White House to formally charge everyone who signed Sen. Tom Cotton’s letter – including Tom Cotton himself, with treason. Because this offense against Barack Obama’s lasting legacy of…something…will not stand!
On March 9th, 2015, forty-seven United States Senators committed a treasonous offense when they decided to violate the Logan Act, a 1799 law which forbids unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign governments. Violation of the Logan Act is a felony, punishable under federal law with imprisonment of up to three years.
At a time when the United States government is attempting to reach a potential nuclear agreement with the Iranian government, 47 Senators saw fit to instead issue a condescending letter to the Iranian government stating that any agreement brokered by our President would not be upheld once the president leaves office.
This is a clear violation of federal law. In attempting to undermine our own nation, these 47 senators have committed treason.
Okie dokie. First off, a violation of the Logan Act is not, in itself, treason. It’s a felony, with a minimum three-year prison sentence. Treason gets you hung in the public square. That’s not even a joke. It’s our most dastardly Federal crime and it is always – always – punishable by death.
But this is where we start to learn why decisions should never be made by stupid people in large groups. While the letter might be ill-timed or even, depending on your outlook, ill-advised (Byron York probably put it best as “too much, too soon”), it doesn’t seem to rise to the level of a Logan Act violation for a variety of reasons, least of which is that the President is not the sum total of the American government. There’s also that thing about the Senate having veto power over treaties the President enters into, as well, but we’re not dealing with anyone, here, who is a student in “Advanced Placement US Government.” The President, of course, is not the only authority in the co-equal branches of government charged with doing what’s best for the country; it is easily the responsibility of the other branches to place restrictions on the President, who does, in turn, get some restrictions over them. The balance of powers is key here. It doesn’t disappear because some mean old Republicans won’t grant the poor President his every wish.
But like the Cotton letter, the petition itself isn’t much more than a publicity stunt. Unlike the Cotton letter however, it doesn’t serve to remind people in power that there are limitations to their ability to act without consulting other important lawmakers. Tom Cotton may be facing down a whopping 140,000 Americans who, spurred on by Facebook posts and Twitter entreaties, have signed their name to an Internet missive, but he’s far from the top target of even We the People’s ire.
Deporting Justin Bieber and revoking his greencard? That got nearly 275,000 signatures.
I guess we know which one is truly the American peoples’ priority.
The offer renews after one year at the regular price of $79.99.