The Republicans on START: Not Serious, “No Shame”

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This remarkable lame duck session of congress contines – upending all conventional wisdom about Barack Obama’s fortunes and election consequences. You might previously have thought the Republicans won the presidency in November. Though it is probably the President’s compromise with Republicans on taxes that set the stage for what is now happening, perhaps the major player has been that homely tortoise Harry Reed. No inside beltway account has yet adequately detailed how he has been maneuvering the pieces to pass bills that, like DADT, only days ahead of their passage were being left for dead before the Republican NOadblock. Next up, now, appears to be the START treaty.

On START like almost everything else these past two years – other than protecting wealth, corporations, and destroying the Obama presidency  – the Republicans have never been serious. Under George W.  Bush, as with any president of their party, Republicans worshiped at the feet of  the Generals, the advice of “our military commanders.” Under Obama, though most service commanders, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the ex-Reagan CIA director and Republican Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and a majority of the military personnel were ready for the end of DADT, then Republicans only cared what PFC homophobe felt. With the new START treaty, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mullen helped negotiate it, and Gates supports it, along with four-decades-worth of the biggest names in Republican defense policy, including Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft. But if Barack Obama negotiated it, the treaty endangers us.

What was one of the crucial, but failed amendments Republicans tried to attach in order to improve (kill) the bill? That at the end of seven years the number of permitted launchers permitted both sides would be – are you ready? – 720 instead of 700. I know I’d be sleeping easier. Rejection of changes in the negotiated treaty caused consternation in what passes these days for Republican congressional defense policy brain trust,  Jon Kyl.

“What’s wrong with that?” he asked of reopening negotiations to improve the treaty. “Unless you think the U.S. Constitution was really stupid to give the Senate a role in this, it doesn’t seem there’s anything wrong with the Senate saying, ‘You’ve got about nine-tenths of it right.’ ”

The Senate, in its role, may certainly reject the treaty. But what kind of negotiation can be conducted when the other side cannot trust that what it agreed to are really the final terms? Would the U.S. accept such negotiating conditions? Of course not. Is Kyl really that ridiculously ignorant? No. He is, like today’s Republican Party, ridiculously insincere. Accept for when members confess that what they really want is to get Barack Obama.

General Brent Scowcroft (ret.), the former National Security Advisor to both Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, has been working the phones trying to secure Republican Senate support for the ratification of the New START nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia. He said he’s “cautiously optimistic” but said he was frustrated with the opposition he’s been hearing from Republicans.

“It’s baffling to me,” Scowcroft told ABC News.

But, now, even as it appears John McCain’s latest vain attempt to appear relevant is doomed to the inconsequentiality it possessed from the start,  John Kerry knows what is going on.

The floor debate turned heated at times on Monday. Mr. McConnell accused Mr. Obama of politicizing the treaty by pressing to ratify it before a new Senate takes office in January with five additional Republicans. “Our top concern should be the safety and security of our nation, not some politician’s desire to declare a political victory and host a press conference before the end of the year,” he said.

Mr. Kerry retorted that the treaty had been delayed 13 times at the request of Republicans. “Having accommodated their interests,” he said, “they now come back and turn around and say: ‘Oh, you guys are terrible. You’re bringing this treaty up at the last minute.’ I mean, is there no shame, ever, with respect to the arguments that are made sometimes on the floor of the United States Senate?”

About Republican absence of shame, though, no one knows better than Kerry.


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