It certainly was an inartful way to exercise the Senate’s legitimate role, but for better (worse?) examples – or for those with short or partisan memories – here are just 5 times democrats undermined republican presidents with foreign governments.
Mario Loyola argues that a change in primary and secondary audiences would have accomplished the same thing but in more proper fashion. From On That Extraordinary Letter to Iran:
Though addressed to Iran’s leaders, the letter was also a tacit warning to Obama. It would perhaps have been more artful — and certainly more routine — to address the letter to Obama, and let it be a tacit warning to Iran. That might not have grabbed as many headlines, but it would have been just as widely read by the regime’s leaders. It must be admitted that the letter has an unseemly aspect — not quite as unseemly as then–House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s 2007 visit to Syria, perhaps, but close. The spectacle of Congress seeking to undermine the president’s policy by appealing directly to foreign governments is embarrassing not just for Obama but for the whole country, clear evidence that something is going terribly wrong in our foreign-policy making. But who’s fault is that?
[Even though we can argue over the Senate’s duty and a right to play a role…]
…you can’t sustain a foreign policy that less than 40 percent of the American public support, that terrifies our allies, and that generates a possibly veto-proof majority of opposition in the Senate. And nobody should know that better than the president who, as senator in 2007, vociferously opposed the surge in Iraq, predicted that it would fail, and voted to de-fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. What the entire episode demonstrates is the need for a new bipartisan foreign-policy consensus — something that doesn’t interest Obama in the least. With this historic implosion of our nation’s ability to conduct a rational and effective foreign policy that has public and international support, Congress has to step in.
Byron York writes that what we are experiencing is actually a symptom of a different war:
There’s a war going on between the executive and legislative branches in which Obama has shown contempt for Congress’ constitutional powers, and now, in response, Congress is showing contempt for the president’s constitutional powers. It’s an unfortunate situation, but it’s what Obama has wrought…
Time after time, Obama has told Congress to go to hell. Now Congress is telling Obama to go to hell. It’s an entirely predictable development.
Of course, it is still a bad thing. It is not good to invite a foreign leader to address Congress in a campaign against the U.S. president. It is not good to undermine the president’s authority to conduct foreign policy. But it’s not a good thing to undermine Congress’ authority to make laws, either. And to threaten even more undermining in the future, as Obama has done.
It’s too bad for Obama that he couldn’t persuade Congress to do everything he wanted. That did not give him the right to encroach on Congress’s constitutional authority.
Now Congress is pushing back. It’s a shame it’s come to this, but that’s the way things work.