Xerostomia is a medical term used for dry mouth due to lack of saliva - there is not enough saliva to keep the mouth wet; there is reduced or absent saliva flow. We all get a dry mouth sometimes - when we are upset, under stress or extremely frightened. Xerostomia is different - the individual's mouth is dry most of the time.
Medical News Today
It’s too early to determine whether Senator Tom Cotton, Arkansas’ newly elected junior senator and one of thirteen newcomers to the upper house, suffers from systemic xerostomia or whether his penchant for pillorying is episodic and fitful.
Having heard him address a roomful of conferees at a prominent Washington DC think tank in the year preceding his election to the Senate, I can attest to his apparent preference for ‘slash-and-burn,’ inflammatory speech. Like others in the room that day, I was taken aback at his personal invective about the 44th President.
What we do know, however, is that in very short order, Senator Cotton has managed to distinguish himself among colleagues by inducing forty-six colleagues to sign “An Open Letter to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” which provides counsel on two of the finer points of American constitutional law on the separation of powers and terms of office.
The Cotton letter concludes with a condescending assertion wrapped in faux congeniality, the kind you might receive from your bank warning of the possible ramifications for failing to make timely loan payments:
“We hope this letter enriches your knowledge of our constitutional system and promotes mutual understanding and clarity as nuclear negotiations.”
No sooner had Senator Cotton and his colleagues fired off the letter than the predictable domestic backlash had begun with accusations ranging from Obama derangement syndrome to betrayal, disloyalty, subversion, even treason.
And as one might expect, Senator Cotton returned fire – he’s a five year veteran who served with the 101st Airborne in Iraq and in Afghanistan as a member of a Provincial Reconstruction Team – as have more than a few Republican presidential nominee hopefuls and a slew of operatives.
So, what would lead Cotton and his colleagues to engage in an act that at the very least is impetuous and petulant and at worst shows manifest disregard for the protocols of foreign policy-making and disrespect for America’s Commander-in-Chief?
Good question, especially because it was in error on substance and distributed to an unnamed group of ‘leaders,’ a communications technique akin to posting a “To Whom It Concerns” flyer on telephone poles and in post offices.
As you reach your own conclusions on the matter, bear in mind that in his haste to draft the letter and its cosponsors, Senator Cotton revealed a gap or two in his understanding of the distinction between treaties and executive agreements. And for those points of law we thank former Bush 43 Assistant Attorney General and Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith for his ‘Lawfare’ blog entry on Monday of this week:
“It appears from the letter that the Senators do not understand our constitutional system or the power to make binding agreements.
“The letter states that “the Senate must ratify [a treaty] by a two-thirds vote.” But as the Senate’s own web page makes clear: “The Senate does not ratify treaties. Instead, the Senate takes up a resolution of ratification, by which the Senate formally gives its advice and consent, empowering the president to proceed with ratification” (my emphasis). Or, as this outstanding 2001 CRS Report on the Senate’s role in treaty-making states (at 117): “It is the President who negotiates and ultimately ratifies treaties for the United States, but only if the Senate in the intervening period gives its advice and consent.”
Add to that, the letter violates the spirit if not the law of the ‘sole organ’ principle stated in the Logan Act of 1799:
“Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”
Like most political acts these days, this was about pique – aimed solely at the President of the United States -- as was the invitation by House Speaker John Boehner to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. If it had been intended to register a genuine difference of opinion on foreign policy and national security, the path to dealing with such matters is well-known and oft-trodden.
Instead Senator Cotton and his coalition of the fervent took the path less traveled by, guaranteeing themselves a footnote in American political history, a place of prominence for a few days in the news cycle, the approbation of their base, and the opprobrium of much broader constituencies across the political spectrum.
Taken together, this is a lose-lose proposition: Cotton and his party rack up another sizable demerit for gratuitous and contemptible Congressional comportment; their behavior and the accuracy of their message are duly noted by the ‘enemy;’ and America gets another political micturition contest to debase its politics.
The likelihood that this will have any impact on the final terms of negotiation is negligible: the participants in these prolonged negotiations are impervious to pretentious interruptions.
Iran’s Prime Minister Mohammad Jahad Zarif has already given his response:
“In our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy."
And from a recent NPR report on its ‘the two way’ program,
“Zarif said he was astonished by the letter, saying it suggests the U.S. lawmakers’ “not only do not understand international law’ — a subject in which he is a professor — ‘but are not fully cognizant of the nuances of their own Constitution when it comes to presidential powers in the conduct of foreign policy . . .’”
Perhaps the loudest and most important voices in this sorry episode were those of the seven GOP colleagues who chose not to sign the letter, proving once again that silence can be deafening [Lamar Alexander (TN), Daniel Coats (IN), Thad Cochran (MS), Susan Collins (ME), Bob Corker (TN) Jeff Flake (AZ), and Lisa Murkowski (AK)]
As for the young Senator from Arkansas from whom one hopes the country might see better as time marches on, I’ll borrow a line from one of his political heroes to express my thought about all of this:
"I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience." (Ronald W. Reagan, 10/21/84)
And as for that xerostomia, Senator Cotton, there are multiple treatment options to rid yourself of that maddening condition.