Rep. Jared Polis started calling Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton “Tehran Tom” after word got out that the Senator had led a coalition of 47 Republicans in the drafting of a letter to Iran. The “#47Traitors” hashtag took off on Twitter, and over 200,000 people have signed a petition accusing those senators of violating the Logan Act.

You’d think we’d never seen anything like this before, right? Well, that’s exactly what progressives want you to think.

Tom Cotton may have caused a scandal, but he hasn’t come close to the misdeeds of Democrats who came before him.

1983: Kennedy appeals to Moscow

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In 1991, the London Times published a memo pulled from the Soviet archives offering proof that in 1983, Senator Ted Kennedy worked with an old law school friend by the name of John Tunney to relay a message from himself to Yuri Andropov, a top official in Russia’s Communist regime.

From Forbes:

Composed in 1983 by Victor Chebrikov, the top man at the KGB, the memorandum was addressed to Yuri Andropov, the top man in the entire USSR. The subject: Sen. Edward Kennedy.

“On 9-10 May of this year,” the May 14 memorandum explained, “Sen. Edward Kennedy’s close friend and trusted confidant [John] Tunney was in Moscow.” (Tunney was Kennedy’s law school roommate and a former Democratic senator from California.) “The senator charged Tunney to convey the following message, through confidential contacts, to the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Y. Andropov.”

Promising media appearances and propaganda coordination, Kennedy offered his expertise in dealing with “problematic” President Ronald Reagan in exchange for the Soviets’ help in defeating Reagan in the 1984 presidential elections.

The memo has never been debunked or proven a forgery, and Kennedy’s office refused to deny or disavow the memo when pressed by the media.

As for the Times’ story? It received no attention.

1984: “Dear Comandante”

This one hits a little closer to home.

In the ’80’s, Congress found itself in a fierce battle over how the Reagan Administration was handling relations with the Sandinista Government in Nicaragua. A group of enterprising Democrats took it upon themselves to pen a letter to Daniel Ortega Saavedra, coordinator of the junta, and pledged their goodwill in exchange for fair elections in Nicaragua.

A 1984 article from the New York Times has the details:

The 10 authors include Jim Wright of Texas, the majority leader; Edward P. Boland of Massachusetts, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and other senior Democrats in the foreign policy field. The letter tells Mr. Ortega that it was written ”in a spirit of hopefulness and goodwill” and voices regret that relations between Nicaragua and Washington are not better.

The writers stress that they all oppose further money for rebel campaigns against the Sandinista Government. In a veiled reference to the Reagan Administration, the letter says that if the Sandinistas do hold genuine elections, those who are ”supporting violence” against the Nicaraguan leaders would have ”far greater difficulty winning support for their policies than they do today.”

In his retort, Representative Gingrich argues that the letter writers ”step across the boundary from opposition to a policy, to undercutting that policy.”

He also notes that the members of Congress offer to discuss these issues with Mr. Ortega and the junta. In Mr. Gingrich’s view, ”This clearly violates the executive branch’s exclusive prerogative of negotiating with a foreign government.”

Then-Representative Newt Gingrich went on the warpath, distributing copies of the letter to the media and questioning the legality of the communications between Congress and the Nicaraguan government. Sound familiar?

1987: Wright reaches out to Ortega

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Jim Wright just couldn’t get enough of those Nicaraguans.

In the middle of progressing peace talks brokered by the U.S. between the Ortega government and the Contra rebels, Wright again inserted himself not into the media limelight, but into a seat at the bargaining table.

The LA Times scooped it:

A Wright spokesman said only that the Speaker “has been listening to both sides” and is not an intermediary between Ortega and his rebel opponents.

“I would not describe it as mediating. We’re trying to get the talks off and rolling,” the spokesman said.

In an unusual development in a hectic day of closed-door meetings, Secretary of State George P. Shultz also briefly visited Wright and the Contra leaders at Wright’s Capitol office. A Wright spokesman said “multiple items” were discussed, including Central America and the December summit between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

One Reagan Administration official said Shultz planned to voice concern over the House Speaker’s growing role in what the State Department views as a foreign-affairs issue.

That official, reflecting unhappiness with Wright’s new role as a Central American emissary, said Wright has kept the White House and State Department in the dark during three days of increasingly urgent talks with Ortega, the Contras and others.

I’ll believe what he says about the meetings—after all, he’d already made a whole letter full of promises back in 1984.

2007: “General Pelosi”

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We already know that Democrats gave Bush 43 little to no deference or respect when it came to foreign policy, but few went so far as to actually lunch with one of the most hostile nations on the planet.

Nancy Pelosi went to Syria. She didn’t write a letter, or send a telegram, or work through diplomatic back channels to set up a Google Hangout. She went to Syria and had lunch with President Bashar al-Assad, and she didn’t have the blessing of the President before she got on the plane.

From NBC News:

Pelosi said Assad assured her of his willingness to engage in peace talks with Israel, and that she and other members of her congressional delegation raised their concern about militants crossing from Syria into Iraq, as well the Israeli soldiers kidnapped by the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and the Palestinian group Hamas.

The Californian Democrat spoke to reporters shortly after talks with Assad at the end of a two-day visit to Syria.

She said the delegation gave the Syrian leader a message from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert whose essence was that Israel was ready to hold peace talks with Syria.
She did not say more about the message, but Israel has previously made such talks conditional on Syria’s cutting off its support for hard-line Palestinian groups and Hezbollah.

“We were very pleased with the assurances we received from the president that he was ready to resume the peace process. He’s ready to engage in negotiations for peace with Israel,” Pelosi said.

They delivered messages! And got assurances! Wherever, then, did we manage to go wrong with Syria?

We’re probably lucky Assad didn’t launch a missile at Washington, out of pure spite.

2008: Obama soothes the mullahs

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In 2008, nuclear talks between Iran and a seven nation coalition headed by the United States collapsed. The United States had even sent a diplomat to Tehran to deal with the issue personally; but Iran decided to hold firm against international demands that they stop enriching uranium under a “freeze-for-freeze” plan.

From Power Line Blog:

The Iranians held firm to their position, perhaps because they knew that help was on the way, in the form of a new president. Barack Obama had clinched the Democratic nomination on June 3. At some point either before or after that date, but prior to the election, he secretly let the Iranians know that he would be much easier to bargain with than President Bush. Michael Ledeen reported the story last year:

During his first presidential campaign in 2008, Mr. Obama used a secret back channel to Tehran to assure the mullahs that he was a friend of the Islamic Republic, and that they would be very happy with his policies. The secret channel was Ambassador William G. Miller, who served in Iran during the shah’s rule, as chief of staff for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and as ambassador to Ukraine. Ambassador Miller has confirmed to me his conversations with Iranian leaders during the 2008 campaign.

Active sabotage of a seven-nation coalition working to secure a nuclear deal with Iran? No big deal, right? This one truly takes the cake because it features a president-elect stepping into the shoes of a sitting president and brokering half of a future deal with a hostile power.

The point here isn’t that Democrats criticized Republican-driven foreign policy; the point is that the Democrats actively reached out to foreign governments in an attempt to undercut what the majority party was trying to do.

You can agree or disagree with what Cotton and the other Republicans did—I know conservatives on both sides of the issue having legitimate discussions over it—but what will not stand is the faux panic of an entire caucus of Democrats still sore from election night.

Photo credits to The Blaze, J. Michael Waller, the Ocala Star-Banner, Jamal Saidi for Reuters, and The History Channel.