Saturday, March 14, 2015

It Has Been an Interesting Week (in review)

Earlier this week 47 Republican Senators sent Iran a letter explaining the rules for US approval of international treaties.  This has created quite the firestorm.  The author and spark behind this was the freshman senator from Arkansas, the Honorable Tom Cotton.  So far he has been labeled everything from a traitor to a mutineer.  Where is a good yardarm when you need it?  Every expert the media and White House can find has been brought out to smack him down.  Heck, even Meagan Kelly has taken him to task.  There are some interesting comparisons made at Legal Insurrection, a politically conservative blog.

From what I’ve observed, the letter is foundationally correct in its statements to Iran that the Senate must approve treaties if they are to be binding.  This flies in the face of what has been reported about the President’s plan to just sign the agreement as if it were a binding document, perhaps thinking the Iranians were not smart enough to know the rules we in the US must play by.  What is causing the controversy is a group of Senators interjecting themselves into what is historically the role of the Executive.  As LI points out good ol’ Tom Cotton is not the first to do this, but he carries on a tradition employed by a number of Democrats when they didn’t like what a Republican President was doing.  Examples cited are Congressional engagement with Nicaragua’s communist regime, Senator Kennedy’s attempt to reach out to Yuri Andropov of the USSR, and the Honorable Ms. Pelosi’s uncoordinated trip and lunch with President Assad of Syria as she attempted to broker a deal between Syria and Israel.

As an interested citizen with no voice in the issues -- the only thing I find amusing in this whole affair is how outraged everyone is when, after six years of an administration that repeatedly shows its disdain for coordination with a Republican Congress they find that very same Congress acting without its blessing.

And then we have Ms. Clinton, presumptive nominee for the Democratic Party for the 2016 Presidential Campaign.  Good golly Miss Molly, she set up her own server because conducting official business through the government's system was just so darn inconvenient.  I understand many say “what’s the big deal? It was all personal stuff, and she should be allowed to do what she wanted to do.”  To those I would offer the following questions.  Why do we have a national archive and why do we have classified and unclassified systems?

Believe it or not the US Government actually has laws that define what constitute official records, how they are to be handled and where they are to be stored.  Just for the record (pun intended), based on my annual training in records maintenance, I can assure you E-mail does constitute an official record.  I checked, and you know I didn’t see Ms. Clinton’s server as one of the places they should be.  A while back, during the Civil Rights Movement of the ‘60s, we got all up in arms about the government spying on us, and our Congress created the “Freedom of Information Act” or FOIA (5 USC § 522) that President Lyndon Johnson signed into law in 1966.  This statue allows any citizen to make a request for information from the Government and obligates the government to make a good faith effort to provide that information as long as it does not compromise national security, or personal privacy.  What better way to avoid FOIA release  than not keep it where it belongs so it can’t be searched for and provided as appropriate?  Not that Ms. Clinton would ever consider that, it was simply a matter of convenience.  Who likes to carry around both a private device and a government device, especially when the demands on the entourage to carry all the other stuff like luggage, meals, bullet proof vests (for getting into and out of war zones), and flowers to give that homey touch to the government jet is so great. 
So now comes Citizen’s United in its lawsuit against the Department of State, for its failure to answer FOIA requests for the passenger manifests on Ms. Clinton’s flights as SECSTATE.  According to the NY Times, it seems Judge Gladys Kessler, District Court, District of Columbia, has ordered the State Department to begin turning over the manifests by April 5th.  I assume the DoS will appeal.   
Isn’t government transparency a great thing?

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