The Core of the Problem

As I was channel-surfing this morning, I caught a snippet of an interview on Face the Nation which I think is very reflective of our political problems today. The interviewer, not the interviewee but the interviewer mind you, asked a question to the effect of do you think that President Trump’s going back on a U. S. promise will have an adverse effect on our relationship with our European allies?

Ignoring that that was editorializing rather than interviewing, isn’t that the problem? The “Iran deal” was only a “U. S. promise” as long as President Obama was in office. After he left office President Trump had as much authority to abrogate the deal as President Obama had to enter into it. President Obama never pursued getting Congressional support for the deal which meant that it was executive discretion which cannot be binding on a succeeding executive.

I cut a certain amount of slack for Europeans who don’t understand our system. We understand their systems even less. I don’t cut the same slack for U. S. journalists who, regardless of their political views, should at least understand our system of government.

12 comments… add one
  • I don’t disagree, but at the same time I don’t think Republicans in the Senate would have backed any agreement with Iran no matter what it contained.

  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    Oh Europeans know all about the difference between cutting a deal with a US President vs cutting a deal with the US. It’s only 99 years since the treaty of Versailles.

    An agreement could have passed the US senate – but it would have been so injurious to Iranian interests.

  • steve Link

    I think you are a bit too harsh on the interviewer. I think that ti s commonly accepted that leaders amen agreements for their organizations/groups. Obama made an agreement in his capacity as leader of the US, so it seems like a fair question. Not that hard to answer either, and suspect our allies knew it. No deal of any kind, even with a treaty, is that reliable with the US as our domestic politics drives what we do. Remember that we signed (Reagan) a treaty saying we wouldn’t torture.


  • PD Shaw Link

    @steve, the Senate ratified the torture treaty with a series of conditions that meant that Congress would define “torture,” not the Soviets or some international body. That is, the treaty was not self-executing:

  • steve Link

    Did Congress define torture? Dont think so. Still, not sure this makes the point less valid. The US makes deals but doesn’t seem to feel the need to honor them. Nothing new.


  • PD Shaw Link

    @Steve, the Senate ratification included the Senate’s understanding of what torture meant, in particular what is “mental suffering” and this understanding was incorporated into the definition of “torture” in the U.S. Criminal Code:

  • Zachriel Link

    PD Shaw: the definition of “torture” in the U.S. Criminal Code “the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering”

    Well, that would certainly seem to include waterboarding.

    steve: The US makes deals but doesn’t seem to feel the need to honor them.

    Nothing new. Then again, the U.S. has always been more aspirational than otherwise.

  • PD Shaw Link

    @Zachriel, “severe mental pain and suffering” is defined as well.

    The ratification proceedings are pretty clear as to the intent of the understanding incorporated into ratification. The U.S. would not be agreeing to anything new domestically, and as to overseas actions, nothing would preclude forms of psychologically coercive interrogation tactics researched and used by the CIA that leave no physical mark.

  • Zachriel Link

    PD Shaw: nothing would preclude forms of psychologically coercive interrogation tactics researched and used by the CIA that leave no physical mark.

    Waterboarding is not psychological, but intended to inflict severe physical pain.

  • Andy Link

    A bit off-topic, but I ran across this on Facebook and hadn’t seen it before. I think it’s an interesting way to divide up North America and it seems mostly accurate from my experience traveling and living in different parts of the US.

  • That’s consistent with the historical reality that the United States was developed by settlers in horizontal bands. So, for example, Illinois was once a county of Virginia. Much of Missouri settlement was by people who moved from Virginia to Kentucky to Illinois to Missouri. Their children moved to Kansas, Colorado, and to California. But there was also a horizontal band just south of that extending from Georgia across the Deep South into Texas.

    I think there are some deficiencies in his model, however. The Upper Midwest (parts of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota) doesn’t really have much in common with Yankeedom although they may make common cause with it. They were heavily settled by Lutherans and are highly influenced by Lutheran theories of social justice. In other words they arrive at some of the same destinations as the Calvinist Yankees but get there by a very different route.

    This really plays out in a place like Illinois. Evanston traditionally is Yankee to the core but you could hardly get less Yankee than Illinois north and west of Lake County which is better thought of as Lower Wisconsin. Yankee Evanston doesn’t have much in common with Illinois south and west of Will County but that area is more like Ohio and Virginia than it is like Lower Wisconsin. And none of those areas have much in common with Illinois along the Ohio River in which, in the period immediately following statehood, slavery was legal.

  • Andy Link

    Makes sense looking at it that way.

    The main thing wrong is Florida – the only part of Florida that’s the deep south is the panhandle and maybe a few swampy cracker areas between the urban and suburban areas.

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