Green Room

Enforce the Logan Act or Repeal It

posted at 9:56 am on November 14, 2010 by

Liberals are outraged by Eric Cantor’s assurances to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the GOP will “serve as a check” to the Obama administration.  Adam Sewer wrote regarding Cantor’s and many other Republicans’ response to Nancy Pelosi’s unauthorized 2006 visit to Syria, “Based on Cantor’s own standard, he’s just committed a felony.”  He quoted Cantor himself:

Presenting Assad with “a new Democratic alternative” — code for making President Bush look feckless — Mrs. Pelosi usurped the executive branch’s time-honored foreign-policy authority. Her message to Assad was that congressional Democrats will forbid the president from increasing pressure on Damascus to stop its murderous way. Several leading legal authorities have made the case that her recent diplomatic overtures ran afoul of the Logan Act, which makes it a felony for any American “without authority of the United States” to communicate with a foreign government to influence that government’s behavior on any disputes with the United States.

Glenn Greenwald griped, “Imagine if a leading Democratic Congressman told a leader of a foreign country he’d side with them against the GOP US President” and “Imagine John Kerry, 2006, to French President Jacques Chirac: ‘I’ll safeguard French interests against President Bush’.”  We don’t have to imagine situations where top-level Democrats have worked to undermine U.S. policy abroad.  There are plenty of examples.  David Freddoso referenced one when he tweeted in reply, “No need to imagine.  It happened in 02.”  Greenwald complained,

Had Cantor done this with any foreign nation other than Israel, this would easily be the leading political controversy of the week.

Liberals have whined for years about the “Israel exception” where Republicans are accused of violating the Logan Act with regard to Israel.  But if Democrats don’t violate the Logan Act in Israel, they certainly feel empowered to do so in the rest of the world.

1970: John Kerry, as an inactive Navy reserve officer, met during wartime with enemy officials while his government was trying to conduct negotiations with them.

1983: Ted Kennedy secretly offered to help the Russians “counter the militaristic politics of Reagan” during the Cold War.

1984: Top Congressional Democrats including Jim Wright, Edward Boland, Lee Hamilton, and Stephen Solarz wrote the “Dear Commandante” letter to Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, which stated, “As members of the U.S. House of Representatives… We have been, and remain, opposed to U.S. support for military action directed against the people or government of Nicaraugua.”¹

1987: House Speaker Jim Wright (D-TX) took it upon himself to conduct negotiations with Ortega.  Nor was he the only Democrat involved – several were caught during CIA surveillance of the Sandinistas.

1992: Judiciary Committee Republicans sought a special prosecutor to investigate recent newspaper reports that a consultant who may have said he had links to the Clinton campaign sought to stall a final accord on reduced trade barriers after six years of negotiations among 108 nations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.  (They were denied, reducing the story to he said, she said.)

2002: Democrats David Bonior, Jim McDermott, and Mike Thompson took what turned out to be a junket sponsored by Saddam Hussein to Baghdad to oppose the embargo and the upcoming war in Iraq.

2006: Senator Ben Nelson met with Syrian President Bashar Assad, “without the authority and contrary to the wishes of the Bush administration, including the State Department.”

2007: Howard Dean admitted, “I am trying to build relationships with other governments in preparation for a Democratic takeover.  I want to make clear that there is an opposition in America and that we are ready to take power and that when we do, we are going to have much better relationships with them.”

Nancy Pelosi also met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2007, along with Congressmen Keith Ellison (D-MN), Nick Rahall (D-WV), Tom Lantos (D-CA), Henry Waxman (D-CA), and David Hobson (R-OH).

2008: Then-Senator Obama tried to talk the Iraqi government into delaying the draw-down agreement in 2008.

Are all these examples actual violations of the Logan Act?  That’s for a court to decide, but the problem is that one never will.  Government officials, especially Democrats, violate it with impunity because they’re confident they’ll never be prosecuted.  It’s rare they even get bad press for doing so.  If these were social visits, perhaps Democrats should reconsider who they’re hanging out with.

Isn’t the real lesson here that the Logan Act is meaningless except for its value as a political cudgel?  If the Logan Act is not going to be enforced, it should be repealed.  I don’t know whether Cantor violated the Logan Act by making those comments to Netanyahu but if the DOJ thinks he did, by all means, prosecute him for it.  Democrats are going to be hit a lot harder by Logan Act enforcement than Republicans will.  And if the DOJ continues to enforce the law unequally (sanctuary cities get a pass, yet Arizona is prosecuted; some voter intimidation is more equal than others) then the 2010 teanami is going to seem like a pleasant day at the beach for Democrats in comparison to the 2012 wipeout.

Added: Gabriel Malor notes that libs are misstating what Cantor’s office actually said, Legal Insurrection provides roundup of liberal freakouts on this topic, and a reminder of who we’re dealing with – remember when Greenwald was reduced to sockpuppeting in order to receive a kind word?  Bottom line – let’s assume that everything the left is claiming about Cantor’s statements to Netanyahu are true.  Still doesn’t come close to what Democrats have gotten away with.  Either enforce the law or repeal it.


¹Edwin Meese, With Reagan: The Inside Story (Regnery Publishing) 238.


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That was a very informative article. Thanks. I wonder if the new r’s will take up this issue in 2011? You are correct, enforce or repeal. If they do go after Cantor, haul all the d’s before a hearing also.

letget on November 14, 2010 at 10:39 AM

Isn’t the real lesson here that the Logan Act is meaningless except for its value as a political cudgel? If the Logan Act is not going to be enforced, it should be repealed. I don’t know whether Cantor violated the Logan Act by making those comments to Netanyahu but if the DOJ thinks he did, by all means, prosecute him for it. Democrats are going to be hit a lot harder by Logan Act enforcement than Republicans will.

That says it right there. Are the Democrats really willing to play this game with the Republicans? If the Dems really want to start whining about Logan Act violations I don’t think the GOP is going to hesitate to smack them with all of the Democratic violations.

And besides I want to ask: Does anybody think they would whining like they are now if Cantor made these assurances to someone other then Netanyahu? What if it was Hu or Castro?

Shogun144 on November 14, 2010 at 11:05 AM

So … if Cantor had said “Historically, Congressional houses held by the party opposing the President have acted as a check on the President” he would simply be teaching history. But if he says, publicly, what everybody already knows: that the new Republican leadership intends to continue the tradition, then he is engaging in personal diplomacy and violating the Logan act?

That’s like saying that the fact that the United States has an Army is a state secret.

njcommuter on November 14, 2010 at 11:24 AM

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Ed Morrissey on November 14, 2010 at 4:59 PM

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