At a Friday morning breakfast with Bloomberg reporters and editors, Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson backpedaled a little on his support for the letter signed by 47 Senators to the leaders of Iran. The controversial letter warned Iranian leaders that U.S. lawmakers or future presidents could disregard any agreements Iran made with President Obama. The patronizing and seditious letter was put forth by Arkansas freshman Senator Tom Cotton, and signed by 46 other Senate Republicans, including Johnson.
After tremendous public backlash, some U.S. Senators have launched into damage control mode, trying to tamp down the righteous outrage of their constituents. Ron Johnson, who faces a tough re-election fight in 2016, told reporters that addressing the letter to Iran’s leaders was a mistake. Of course, he quickly pivoted to saying that the only mistake was who it was addressed to, not the content itself. Nevertheless, the fact that the Senator even recognized that addressing the letter to Iran’s leaders was foolish is noteworthy. Johnson stated:
I suppose the only regret is who it’s addressed to. But the content of the letter, the fact that it was an open letter, none whatsoever.
After acknowledging his regret, he undermined his own statement continuing to want to have it both ways, by adding:
This is such an important deal, it’s a deal that rises to the level of a treaty that really should be evaluated and judged by the American people through their representatives. That treaty should come to Congress for an up-or-down vote.
Apparently Johnson is hoping that his feeble apology, and his halfhearted regrets, will somehow ingratiate himself to Wisconsin’s voters, who have soured on him since he was first elected in November 2010. A poll released on Wednesday showed Johnson trailing the man he beat in 2010, Democrat Russ Feingold, 50-41 in a hypothetical rematch.
Johnson knows that his political future is precarious, so he is attempting to limit the political fallout from signing the “treason letter”, while still trying not to say anything that would potentially offend his tea party base. The Republicans thought they could score a little propaganda victory with the Iran letter, but instead it has backfired in monumental fashion.
While Republicans in deep red states can probably survive the repercussions from their stupid stunt, swing-state senators, like Johnson, may have sealed their political doom. Senator Johnson’s weak efforts to distance himself from his signature may be motivated by his desire for political survival, but the damage has already been done. Whether or not he truly regrets his decision to sign the letter is unclear from his rather mealy-mouthed retraction. However, there is a good chance he will regret signing the letter, shortly after the polls close on Election Night in 2016.