While campaigning in public for a speedy withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, Sen. Barack Obama has tried in private to persuade Iraqi leaders to delay an agreement on a draw-down of the American military presence.Granted, this is an opinion piece and there is debate over whether the allegations made by the column's author, Amir Taheri, is true. The McCain campaign argues, correctly, that if the allegations are true, Senator Obama's conduct is inexcusable. The Obama campaign reflexively characterizes the column as the equivalent of another smear before denying the allegations made in the column.
According to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Obama made his demand for delay a key theme of his discussions with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad in July.
"He asked why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the US elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington," Zebari said in an interview.
Obama insisted that Congress should be involved in negotiations on the status of US troops - and that it was in the interests of both sides not to have an agreement negotiated by the Bush administration in its "state of weakness and political confusion."
From a strict legal perspective, if Senator Obama conducted himself as Mr. Taheri reports, has broken the law. The Logan Act prohibits citizens from negotiating with foreign governments without the specific authority of the United States Government:
Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.Practically speaking, there are very few instances where an individual has been prosecuted for violating this Act. In today's highly politicized culture it would be extremely difficult to pursue such a case. Frankly, while Senator Obama's actions, if true, are appalling, I don't think they would warrant prosecution.
This section shall not abridge the right of a citizen to apply, himself or his agent, to any foreign government or the agents thereof for redress of any injury which he may have sustained from such government or any of its agents or subjects.
But this incident, if true, is another in a long list of instances of Senator Obama's incredibly poor judgement. The question that voters face is given the Senator's track record, can we trust him to exercise proper judgement once in the White House?
I don't think so.