While busy finishing my post regarding Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and other Senate Republicans’ dragging their feet on ratifying the New START treaty and the peripheral implications of their actions, I missed that president Obama dedicated his Saturday address to the nation to the same subject. That Obama chose to use his weekly address to urge the Senate to sign off on the anti-proliferation treaty reminded me of something Steve Benen mentioned in one of his Nov. 17 posts.
Commenting on the potential political risks Republicans invite upon themselves by opposing New START, Benen wrote (emphasis added):
There should be risks, but they don’t really exist. Let me put this plainly: [Republicans]. Don’t. Care. They disregard the pleas of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and listen to the confused misjudgments of a buffoon from Arizona. They assume the public isn’t paying attention, so there won’t be political consequences.
Perhaps the administration’s focus on the treaty over the weekend is an attempt to remedy the public’s oversight. Watch Obama’s speech below.
(Take Action: Urge Senators to Support Nuclear Arms Reduction)
From the transcript:
Over the last several months, several questions have been asked about New START, and we have answered every single one. Some have asked whether it will limit our missile defense – it will not. Some, including Senator Jon Kyl, have asked that we modernize our nuclear infrastructure for the 21st century – we are doing so, and plan to invest at least $85 billion in that effort over the next ten years – a significant increase from the Bush Administration.
Finally, some make no argument against the Treaty – they just ask for more time. But remember this: it has already been 11 months since we’ve had inspectors in Russia, and every day that goes by without ratification is a day that we lose confidence in our understanding of Russia’s nuclear weapons. If the Senate doesn’t act this year – after six months, 18 hearings, and nearly a thousand questions answered – it would have to start over from scratch in January.
The choice is clear: a failure to ratify New START would be a dangerous gamble with America’s national security, setting back our understanding of Russia’s nuclear weapons, as well as our leadership in the world. That is not what the American people sent us to Washington to do…
(Well intentioned critique after the jump)
Considering the content of the speech, I’m left wondering if the president could have benefited by using a more forceful tone. It wouldn’t have been the first time a president issued a verbal spanking over matters of national security.
Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank noted Nov. 21 that Obama’s predecessor would have been far less cordial, specifically when George W. Bush thought Democrats were acting contrary to the interests of national security. ”To borrow Bush’s phrase,” Milbank wrote, “are Republicans not interested in the security of the American People?”
As Obama mentioned, one of the few arguments against new START — and not Sen. Kyl’s ‘we don’t have time’ nonsense — is that the Senate should hold off until they’re sure that European nations are happy with the terms. This was recently articulated by Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) on the Senate floor. Incidentally, a former half-term Alaskan governor recently took a similar public stance.
Both arguments are absurd, of course. The former complaint is demonstrably false, and the latter precludes the notion that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – along with a lengthy list of, both, liberal and conservative, national security experts — has based his ardent support for New START on a purely partisan foundation.
I’m sure the president is aware how vividly this illustrates the lengths Republicans are willing to go in order to prevent the White House from achieving anything that could be perceived as a success. Financial Times reporter Edward Luce, along with his reminder that there are indeed other nations that will be unhappy with the treaty, stated the matter perfectly on ABC’s This Week (11/21):
(via Raw Story)… “Pick two countries that would like to see a failure of ratification: it would be North Korea and Iran,” Luce continued. “I think if that argument doesn’t work with the Republicans, that sort of basic, elemental national security argument doesn’t work, nothing is. There is a greater hatred of Obama than there is a love of American national security.”
I understand the president’s inclination to remain above the fray, and ordinarily I would find his dispassionate, measured delivery to be completely appropriate. In this particular case, and as Republicans continue to demonstrate their commitment to the destruction of the Obama presidency regardless of the costs, a firmer tone is warranted.
Perhaps, as was suggested by historian David Greenberg in his Nov. 19 Slate post, Obama should consider something a bit more ‘Trumanesque’ when dealing with Republicans who’ve taken to behaving like children.
Take Action: Urge Senators to Support Nuclear Arms Reduction
Image via Wikimedia.org
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