In 1968, while the Johnson Administration was attempting to negotiate an end to the Vietnam War -- an effort that would have upended Richard Nixon's presidential hopes -- Nixon ensured that the war would continue. He dispatched emissaries to convince South Vietnam's president, Nguyen van Thieu, to refuse to cooperate in the Paris Peace talks, urging him to wait until after Nixon was elected when he would get a better deal. It worked. In October 1968, after the North Vietnamese appeared ready to make concessions that would allow Johnson to halt the bombing of North Vietnam, the South Vietnamese pulled out of the talks. Nixon was elected. The U.S. did not end its military involvement until 1973, and the war did not end until 1975.
Ronald Reagan feared the next October surprise -- an end to the Iran hostage crisis before the 1980 election-- that would have helped Jimmy Carter keep the presidency. There is convincing evidence that the Reagan-Bush team undermined hostage negotiations by making a secret deal with Iran to not release the hostages until after Reagan's election in exchange for an agreement to sell military equipment to the regime. This worked too. The hostages were released immediately after Reagan's inauguration in January 1981.
And, now, Republicans seek to derail nuclear arms talks between the Obama Administration and Iran. First, the Republican Speaker of the House invited the Prime Minister of Israel to speak before Congress about the dangers of such a deal. Even more remarkably, as has just been reported, 47 Republican senators, including a few presidential hopefuls -- Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio -- have written an open letter to Iran, stating that any nuclear deal it signs is likely to be revoked once Obama leaves office.
It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system … Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement. The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.Republicans, with their underlying cynicism about governance, their willful ignorance about how the Constitution actually works, and their steadfast refusal to believe in the legitimacy of any Democratic president, are not readily distinguishable from Nixon, Reagan and their co-conspirators. What is different is that Republicans today understand that -- given the congenital timidity of Democrats and the infuriatingly 'fair and balanced' reporting of the mainstream press -- there will be no adverse political consequences for their actions. As a result, they are emboldened to undermine their own government in public.