By Jack Ellis, former Mayor of Macon, Georgia, March 22, 2015, Macon, Georgia:
I was disappointed to learn that Georgia’s senior U.S. senator, Johnny Isakson, had signed the ill-conceived March 9, 2015 letter to Iran circulated by Senator Tom Cotton, a junior senator from Arkansas who’d only been in the Senate for two short months. Cotton was quickly joined by another junior, inexperienced senator, Georgia’s David Perdue. Secretary of State John Kerry referred to the letter eventually signed by 47 Republican senators as “unprecedented and un-thought-out.”
The junior senators may be excused for their inexperience. Isakson cannot.
I agree that it was unprecedented for the U.S. Senate to inject itself into serious ongoing negotiations on the nation’s behalf led by the President and his foreign policy team. I disagree, though, that it wasn’t “thought out” by Senator Isakson.
Isakson was merely playing to the ultra-conservative wing of the Republican party of Georgia to ensure that he wouldn’t garner a primary opponent in next year’s senatorial election. Why else would a heretofore-respected senior senator from Georgia be led and persuaded by a couple of brand new senators barely out of the box? I cannot imagine former senators Saxby Chambliss or Sam Nunn being so reckless with our foreign policy in signing such a letter. In fact, Nunn has come out against the letter.
In addition to being disrespectful to our President, Senator Isakson has shown poor judgment in signing on to such a foolish letter designed to undermine the President’s negotiations to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
I’m also wondering how Senator Isakson can find time to read and sign such a letter, but cannot find time to answer a letter from a Vietnam Veteran asking him to look into a very important issue concerning agent orange and the 2200 children of Vietnam Veterans suffering from spina bifida as a result of their father’s exposure to this deadly toxin.
That would be me. I wrote to Senator Isakson three years ago, and visited his office in both Washington, D.C. and Atlanta. I also spoke to Isakson about this issue while we were together in the Republic of Uganda’s International Airport.
To this date, I have yet to receive a letter signed by Senator Isakson regarding these 2200 children suffering from spina bifida. Yet Isakson has no trouble signing a letter that injects himself in serious, sensitive negotiations being conducted by our President and his administration.
Whatever happened to the age-old protocol that foreign policy debate stops at the water’s edge? Senator Isakson owes the President of the United States, the people of Georgia, and indeed, the entire nation, an apology for his reckless action. Given Isakson’s important position as Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, I, as a combat Vietnam Veteran, hope that Senator Isakson will be more thoughtful and respectful when dealing with the President on policies affecting the nation’s veterans.
President Obama said that he is “embarrassed for” the 47 senators who signed the ill-advised letter. I too, am embarrassed, shocked, and appalled that our senior senator, who has been known as a moderate, would risk his good reputation to accommodate an uninformed freshman senator like Cotton on a misguided endeavor to intervene in delicate negotiations designed to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.
Some of the senators who signed Cotton’s letter to Iran, such as John McCain, one never considered a dove on matters pertaining to foreign policy, have expressed regret for signing this letter. As a former elected official, I’m well-aware that we sometimes do or say things that we later regret. However, Isakson’s action in signing such a potentially damaging letter is beyond the pale.
Now is the time for Senator Isakson to admit his mistake, and vow never again to show such disrespect for our President while interfering and playing politics with our national security.