Republicans set up a breakaway nation
The New York Daily News branded Senate Republicans "TRAITORS" in large type across its cover Tuesday, saying, "GOPers try to sabotage Bam nuke deal."
That's not quite right. It's true that 47 Republican senators did their level best to bring us closer to war by writing a letter to Iran's mullahs, attempting to scuttle nuclear talks with the United States. But Republicans aren't exactly subverting the United States. It's more as if they're operating their own independent republic on Capitol Hill. Call it the State of Republicania.
Its prime minister, John Boehner, invited his Israeli counterpart, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to criticize U.S. foreign policy last week before a joint meeting of the Republican parliament. The American president wasn't consulted.
Mitch McConnell, the Republicania home secretary, wrote an op-ed last week in the Lexington Herald-Leader explicitly urging states to refuse to implement a major new power-plant regulation issued by the U.S. government.
And now we have Tom Cotton, Republicania's young foreign minister, submitting "An Open Letter to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran," counseling Iran's leaders that any agreement reached by the United States but not ratified by Republicania could be undone "with the stroke of a pen" (assuming the next president comes from Republicania).
But why stop there? Ted Cruz, serving as Republicania's justice minister, could instruct the sergeant at arms to apprehend administration officials who testify on Capitol Hill and lock them below the Capitol crypt until they agree to more suitable policies. Jim Inhofe, Republicania's environment minister, could undo recent efficiency improvements at the Capitol Power Plant, and the Capitol Police could become Republicania's military, under the command of John McCain as defense minister.
Darrell Issa could serve as Republicania's own J. Edgar Hoover, and Orrin Hatch could become its spiritual leader (the breakaway republic could abandon church-state separation and everything else in the Bill of Rights except for the Second Amendment). Thus could Republicania become a happy little city-state — a Luxembourg on the Anacostia.
There is a potential problem with this model, because Republicania would refuse to levy any taxes. But it appears that Cotton, the recently elected senator from Arkansas, has figured this out, too: He'll get military contractors to bankroll the new nation.
On Tuesday, the day after his letter to Hezbollah's masters became public, Cotton provided a clue about his motives: He'd had a breakfast date with the National Defense Industrial Association — a trade group for Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing and the like.
You're not allowed to know what Cotton said to the defense contractors. The event was "off the record and strictly non-attribution." But you can bet it was what Dwight Eisenhower meant when he warned of the military-industrial complex.
The defense industry contributed more than $25 million in the 2014 election cycle and spent more than $250 million lobbying over that time period, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. For the defense industry, this is a good investment: If Senate Republicans blow up nuclear talks, it makes war with Iran that much more likely — and nobody would benefit as much from that war as military contractors.
Alternatively, Republicania could raise revenue for their city-state by charging visitors for tours. That's a viable option, because nothing at the National Zoo is quite as exotic as Cotton, who after just two months on the job has led his colleagues to break with more than two centuries of foreign policy tradition.
Cotton, appearing on CNN Tuesday morning, maintained that his effort was not political. "Nor do I believe this letter is unprecedented," he said — although the Republicania national archivists have not found a precedent.
Perhaps they will come up with an open letter from American legislators written to King George III in 1783 warning him that the efforts of Benjamin Franklin, John Jay and John Adams might be undone with the stroke of a quill. They may uncover an 1898 cable from American senators to Maria Christina, the Spanish queen regent, cautioning her that many of them would remain in office "decades" after President William McKinley was gone. Or maybe they will uncover a letter from senators to Josef Stalin in 1945, educating him on the constitutional separation of powers before he negotiated with Franklin Roosevelt at Yalta.
But Republicania archivists are unlikely to locate such documents, because they were never written.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, one of just seven Republican senators not to sign Cotton's letter to the ayatollahs, said she thought it "more appropriate for members of the Senate to give advice to the president" and U.S. negotiators.
Spoken like a true American — which, in the corridors of Republicania these days, is nigh unto treason.
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.