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With GOP's Iran Move, Politics Goes Beyond the Water's Edge

Forty-seven GOP Republicans have sent an open letter to Iran to suggest they can undo whatever President Obama’s administration agrees to.
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We know that the political world is still obsessing over Hillary Clinton’s emails -- and it’s possible we could hear from Hillary on the subject sooner rather than later -- but there’s a more stunning political story this morning. As the United States, western nations, China, and Russia are negotiating with Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions, 47 Senate Republicans led by freshman Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) have made an extraordinary -- if not unprecedented -- countermove: They’ve sent an open letter to Iran to suggest they can undo whatever President Obama’s administration agrees to. “First, under our Constitution, while the president negotiates international agreements, Congress plays the significant role of ratifying them… Second … President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then—perhaps decades.” This is extraordinary, because for a GOP Congress that objects to Obama overstepping his bounds, the president is commander-in-chief and conducts the nation’s foreign policy. Just asking, but what countermove is more over the top -- Netanyahu’s speech from last week, or this letter trying to scuttle a deal before it even happens? Let’s officially retire the phrase that politics stops at the water’s edge. Because it just isn’t true.

The seven Republicans who didn’t sign the letter

By the way, seven GOP senators didn’t sign the Cotton letter: Lamar Alexander, Susan Collins, Bob Corker, Dan Coats, Jeff Flake, Lisa Murkowski, and Thad Cochran. Still, 87% of the Senate GOP caucus signed this letter. It’s stunning. And it’s a rebuke on an international stage that doesn't really have a precedent. Imagine Democrats micro-managing the START talks in the 80s by sending an open letter to Gorbachev? It just wouldn't have been viewed as an acceptable political move while the talks were still happening.

EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this article listed Sen. Rob Portman as a Republican who did NOT sign the letter. That was incorrect – he did sign the letter. First Read apologizes for the error.

Hillary is going to have to say something ASAP

After Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said that Hillary Clinton is going to have to fully address her personal emails, don’t be surprised if we hear from Clinton sooner rather than later. She is appearing at a Clinton Foundation event in New York today.

GOP voters divided over Jeb

Republican voters are divided in their support for Jeb Bush in the upcoming 2016 presidential race, according to results from an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday morning. In the poll, 49% of potential GOP primary voters say they could see themselves supporting Bush, the former Florida governor whose father and brother served as president, versus 42% who say they couldn’t back him. But that’s a better score than some other possible Republican candidates received in the poll:

  • Only 32% of Republican voters said they could see themselves supporting New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, versus 57% who couldn’t (-25);
  • Only 20% said they could see themselves backing Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., compared with 51% who couldn’t (-31);
  • And only 23% said they could see themselves supporting real-estate mogul Donald Trump, versus 74% who couldn’t (-51).

Full NBC/WSJ poll comes out later today

By the way, the numbers for other Republicans who ranked higher on this scale – as well as the numbers for Democrats – will be released at 6:30 pm ET tonight.

Obama’s Selma speech

President Obama’s address Saturday marking the 50th anniversary of the bloody march in Selma, AL was arguably the most powerful speech of his presidency. The central theme of his speech was that America -- since its founding -- has been a steady work in progress, especially when it comes to giving rights to minorities, women, and gays. And you could see it almost as a rebuttal to Rudy Giuliani’s comments from a few weeks ago, when he argued that Obama doesn’t love his country. “That’s what America is. Not stock photos or airbrushed history, or feeble attempts to define some of us as more American than others,” Obama said. “We respect the past, but we don’t pine for the past. We don’t fear the future; we grab for it. America is not some fragile thing. We are large, in the words of Whitman, containing multitudes. We are boisterous and diverse and full of energy, perpetually young in spirit. That’s why someone like John Lewis at the ripe old age of 25 could lead a mighty march.” Close to the end of his speech, Obama remarked, “For everywhere in this country, there are first steps to be taken, there’s new ground to cover, there are more bridges to be crossed. And it is you, the young and fearless at heart, the most diverse and educated generation in our history, who the nation is waiting to follow.”

Looks like Paul is going to be able to run for both president and his Senate seat in ‘16

Well, it looks like Rand Paul is going to get his way to run BOTH for president and his U.S. Senate seat -- by having Kentucky conduct its presidential nominating contest as a caucus instead of a primary. The Lexington Herald-Leader: “[T]he executive committee members [of the Kentucky Republican Party] voted unanimously to approve a caucus, allowing a special rules committee to go about answering some of the questions that couldn't be answered on Saturday… While winning approval for a caucus from the executive committee was key to Paul's efforts, the state central committee, which comprises more than 350 members, will still have to vote on a formal proposal, with caucus rules and details, when it meets Aug. 22.” The danger here for Paul is that his brand is as a political outsider. But his move was playing the inside game. It’s what a professional politician does.

On that LITERAL cattle call in Iowa

Paul, in fact, skipped Saturday’s agricultural-themed forum in Iowa to make his case to the Kentucky GOP. But here’s NBC’s Leigh Ann Caldwell on the Republicans who showed up in the Hawkeye State: “Presidential candidates took questions from Iowa mega donor and agriculture entrepreneur Bruce Rastetter who organized this event in just two months at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines... Rastetter questioned each likely candidate for 20 minutes, and the ones who went toward the end of the day had a built-in advantage as the questions remained the same for each. They were asked about immigration, trade with Cuba, free trade, genetically modified food labeling, the role of the Environmental Protection Agency in regulating farm runoff into the water, the coveted crop insurance program, ethanol mandates and wind energy tax credits.”

Menendez: “I’m not going anywhere”

Finally, after the news surfaced that the Justice Department is likely to bring corruption charges against Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the Democrat gave a statement saying: “Let me be very clear: I have always conducted myself appropriately and in accordance with the law. Every action I and my office have taken for the 23 years that I have been privileged to serve in the US Congress has been based on pursuing the best policies for the people of New Jersey and of this entire country... I fight for the things I believe in and the people of our country every single day. That’s who I am. And I’m not going anywhere.”

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