First things first: The letter signed by 47 Republican U.S. senators and addressed to the government of Iran was not an act of treason.
It also was not the first or only instance of members of one party meddling in the negotiations of a U.S. president with a foreign government, though in the past it has almost always been individual members acting on their own.
This episode is surely different in that way. To get all but seven Senate Republicans to sign the letter shows a great deal of party effort was leveraged. It means this was not a single outlier member with a bad idea; it was darn near all of them.
But should we call them traitors? No.
Foolish? Yes. Disappointing? Absolutely. Not giving much thought to consequences? No doubt.
We're not surprised freshman Sen. Ted Cruz signed the letter. In fact, we're a bit shocked it was not his idea. He's become known for such misguided grandstanding. Instead, it came from the mind of Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who was elected in November and is the youngest senator now serving.
It's more distressing that senior Sen. John Cornyn signed. He usually is much more thoughtful, but his conservative credentials were questioned in the last election so perhaps he felt he needed to shore them up.
Cornyn has defended his action, though, telling The Dallas Morning News that President Obama was trying to sidestep Congress on a matter of national importance. Perhaps. But wouldn't the proper time for any sort of action from Congress come after details of a plan were announced? Why preempt negotiations before they reached any sort of conclusion? Did he find repugnant the mere idea of talks?
Whatever the reason we regret Cornyn — and the others — made such a misguided move.
Obviously, their letter didn't carry much punch to the leaders of Iran, who called it propaganda. The Iranians may not be schooled in American politics but they clearly know a blatant political move when they see one.
One has to wonder exactly what the Republicans were trying to accomplish. If they were trying to gain support of American opinion, this was a classic fail. If the hope was to derail the negotiations completely, they have likely only offended five other nations who also are working in earnest to control Iranian nuclear aspirations.
Still, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently in Washington to complain about the negotiations, it seems as if the senators are trying to shoot down in flames any type of deal. That's a dangerous game, one that could lead to serious consequences.
Given Iran's history we may still have to go down that road, but we should not do it without first exhausting all other avenues. These 47 Republicans apparently yearn to go down that dead-end street.