Jared Polis, what were you thinking?

Photographer: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Note to Democrats: Republicans Aren't Traitors

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
Read More.
a | A

What the heck does Jared Polis, a House Democrat from Colorado, think he's doing with these disgraceful tweets?

Yes, it was unseemly for Republican Senator Tom Cotton and 46 colleagues to turn their recent complaints about Barack Obama’s Iran policy into an “open letter” to Iranian leaders.

But this hardly makes Cotton a traitor -- as Polis is implying with that language. As Peter Beinart tweeted today, “it's ridiculous to call him + fellow signers 'traitors.' That's left-wing Cheneyism.”

There is nothing -- nothing, nothing, nothing -- about dissenting from the president’s policy that makes U.S. senators treasonous. This was true during the war in Iraq when Republicans were using such accusations against Democrats; it’s just as true when a Democrat turns the tables.

Do the Republican senators want to derail the negotiations? Of course they do. Is that treason? Of course not. They are policy makers, just as the president is, and publicly stating their positions is what they were elected to do. The legislation they support -- to require any agreement on Iran to be sent to Congress -- would be far more disruptive than publicly stating the limitations of a deal that doesn’t pass through Congress. Is this treasonous, too?     

Those supporting the president on this should call out Cotton and his colleagues on the merits of their position, and it’s fair to criticize the Republicans for their awkward and inappropriate way of stating that policy. Let’s not pretend, however, that an “open letter” was some sort of  attempted conspiracy between those senators and the Iranian government.

Polis should apologize, and his standing in the House Democratic caucus should take a hit for this. Democrats have spent a lot of time (rightly, in my view) criticizing elected Republicans for condoning the worst of talk-radio culture. The lowest thing they can do is to emulate that behavior.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Katy Roberts at kroberts29@bloomberg.net