Deroy Murdock’s Ridiculous and Convenient Pedantry

As the backlash against Republicans continue in response to that appalling open letter they addressed to the leaders of Iran, GOP partisans are scrambling for a rationalization. Enter Deroy Murdock, offering up some quite absurd and irrelevant pedantry at the National Review. He tries to get them off on a technicality:

Before U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and 46 of his GOP colleagues are frog-marched to the gallows and hanged for treason, one vital point of confusion must be cleared up. Say what you will about the Republicans’ open letter “to the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” The Cotton/GOP letter regarding Tehran’s atom-bomb talks with Obama was not sent to the ayatollahs. Had Cotton & Co. actually delivered their communiqué to Iran’s mullahs — perhaps via a Swiss diplomatic pouch or something even more cloak and dagger — their critics would be on less swampy ground in calling them “traitors,” as the New York Daily News screamed.

Either through befuddlement or deceit, many of the Republicans’ detractors have echoed this gross inaccuracy.

Accusations of treason are ridiculous, as I’ve pointed out more than once. The letter was stupid, a violation of at least the spirit of the Logan Act and of the separation of powers doctrine, but it wasn’t treason. But to excuse it away because it was issued as an open letter rather than being physically sent is about equal parts pedantry and sophistry. The letter was addressed to the leaders of Iran. It was read by the people to whom it was addressed and they responded to the communication (by mocking the Republicans, and rightly so). Only someone utterly blinded by partisanship would attempt such weaselry (is that a word? It is now).

You know who agrees with me? Tom Cotton himself, who sent out a tweet announcing the letter that said:

Today, 47 GOP Senators sent a letter to Iranian leaders about Congress’ role in nuclear negotiations.

So it seems that Sen. Cotton himself has committed what Murdock farcically calls a “gross inaccuracy.”

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  • Robin Pilger

    What about “direct or indirect” does Murdock not understand?

  • Pierce R. Butler

    … perhaps via a Swiss diplomatic pouch …

    I seriously doubt whether the government of the Confederation Helvetia would have lent its aid to an effort so jejune and so contrary to accepted international protocols.

  • Modusoperandi

    I don’t see what the big problem with the letter was. I mean, the hero from Speed called and said that even if they could keep the bus above 55 he’d ensure that it stopped as soon as he could make it stop anyway, right? The GOP did the same thing, but in this case it doesn’t matter how fast the bus goes or whether there is or eventually will be a bomb on it or not. They just don’t like the bus. Or Keanu Obama. Even Mullah Bullock irritates them. Look, we both know that the passengers on the bus are going to blow it up anyway, no matter how much we threaten them. What I’m saying is that we have to blow it up before they get a chance to.

  • Quantum Mechanic

    Only someone utterly blinded by partisanship would attempt such weaselry (is that a word? It is now)

    It may not yet be a word, but I find your conflating the noble, loyal and honest weasel to conniving Republicans and (worse still) pedants to be highly offensive!

  • Trebuchet

    There’s a picture going around of Murdock on the back of a woodpecker.

  • Drew

    Hey Ed,

    What do think about them having violated 18 U.S. Code § 2383 – Rebellion or insurrection?

    If a portion of individuals within the government pursues an independent foreign policy, they have performed a de facto coup. It would be a non-violent rebellion against the US Government, a.k.a. Insurrection.

  • lorn

    I suspect there is a similar reason to think this is treason, albeit a form that is not punishable. The US are not, strictly speaking, enemies with or at war with Iran. At least not officially. But gauged by the right’s own words, we are at war.

    Judged by the right’s own words the letter was sent to Iranian leaders and we are at war with those leaders. Which pretty much defines treason. This is akin to the “lust in your heart” standard. You needn’t dear a knock a the door with the sheriff on the other side, but for a political part that speaks of patriotism and emphasizes emotional fidelity to the nation, which is what a lot of those criticisms of Obama are about, it is blatant and obvious siding with the enemy and treason.

  • marcus

    MO @ 3 I get it, kind of like when the cop has to shoot the guy to prevent him from committing suicide.

    Man, international policy is really complex.

  • sezme

    … regarding Tehran’s atom-bomb talks…

    Atom-bomb? the 1950s were just great, weren’t they.

  • Kermit Sansoo

    lorn says: […] which is what a lot of those criticisms of Obama are about, it is blatant and obvious siding with the enemy and treason.


    Authoritarians have a psychological and political loophole. Yes, they are predisposed to slavishly follow the leader, but only if he is a legitimate leader. What if the election is rigged, he is really a Reptilian, he is not qualified because he is not a “natural born citizen” (as defined by the Constitution as read by the Tea Party), or any number of other reasons? RWNJs don’t really care which conspiracy story is true; as long as he is not the real president, all bets are off. Specifically, any action taken against Obama is action against the enemy, and is patriotic, not treasonous.