Sarah Palin has written a polemic against New START. Greg Scoblete has observed that her stated concern for allied security ignores the overwhelming support for ratification from the governments most directly threatened by Russian tactical nuclear weapons. That’s true enough, but what needs to be emphasized here is that Palin’s objections are even more misguided than that. Someone might ask: why bother addressing Palin’s objections? They should be addressed because they are deliberately misleading, and because they are very representative of the typical anti-ratification argument. What is striking about Palin’s criticism of New START is that it is virtually identical to Romney’s criticism or indeed the criticism of any of the treaty’s opponents in the Senate, because all of them are reading from the same ill-informed script. In other words, the average Republican treaty opponent is making arguments that are no more informed or substantial than the arguments made by Sarah Palin.
Here is a passage from Palin’s polemic:
In addition, the recent reports that Russia moved tactical nuclear weapons (which are not covered by New START) closer to our NATO allies, demonstrate that the Obama administration has failed to convince Russia to act in a manner that does not threaten our allies.
That sounds worrisome, but the deeper one digs into the issue the more that it becomes clear that the report about the movement of tactical nuclear weapons is questionable, and even if it were true this would be argument in favor of ratification rather than an argument against the treaty. Dr. Jeffrey Lewis wrote about the report at some length earlier this month. I recommend reading the entire post, but here is Dr. Lewis’ main assessment of what the report actually means:
But as best I can tell, this is what has happened: Russia has begun the long-expected deployment of conventionally-armed Iskander missiles in Western Russia, starting with a unit near St. Petersburg. A small group in the US intelligence community has long argued that Russia is secretly developing, using hydronuclear tests, a low-yield nuclear warhead for the Iskander (as well as a new ALCM).
The Iskander deployment, as well as the debate about New START, allows that group to reprise their argument that Russia is secretly developing new tactical nuclear weapons.
Dr. Lewis offered these concluding thoughts:
In fact, Russia isn’t under many obligations any more. And that is really the problem here: Russia’s legal obligations when it comes to nuclear weapons are pretty few and far between these days [bold mine-DL]. Between various Russian statements about the PNIs and 1987 INF Treaty, US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty and the expiration of START, Moscow is down to two: an obligation not to defeat the purpose of the CTBT and an obligation to make reductions outlined in the New START treaty (which supercedes the Moscow Treaty).
With the CTBT facing little chance of ratification by the US Senate, I am not sure I would count on Russia remaining under that constraint indefinitely. Which leaves us with New START.
The Entous and Weisman story was leaked with the purpose of discouraging Senators from voting for New START. Already, Senator Jim DeMint has threatened to filibuster the New START treaty, in part based on the claim that Russia is deploying tactical nuclear weapons near NATO.
To my mind, that is backwards: A look at the deep divisions within the US intelligence community that causes us to see new Russian nuclear weapons in every woodpile suggests the problem is that we have too little arms control: too few obligations, not enough verification [bold mine-DL].
It seems clear that, if we don’t have New START, we will need something like it.
Which brings us to the key question: Would rejecting New START make it more likely that we would get a better agreement on verification? Or a new agreement on tactical nuclear weapons? Or transparency measures relating to Russian testing activities at Novaya Zemlya?
No, no, and no.
If you don’t like Russian tactical nuclear weapons, you have to take it up with the Russians. And rejecting new START makes that harder, not easier [bold mine-DL].
The European foreign ministers who signed off on the pro-ratification editorial this week understand this, and as Europeans they have a far greater, more immediate interest in making it possible for the U.S. and Russia to begin negotiating on tactical nuclear weapons. Anti-treaty figures have latched on to this report of movements of Russian weapons in a bid to sow distrust and push undecided Senators into the anti-treaty camp, but if the report is true it is an argument for more extensive arms control measures and more verification. Ratification of the treaty will help make these things possible, and the treaty’s defeat will make them impossible. According to the very threat-hyping that anti-treaty Republicans are engaged in, New START should be ratified, and the sooner the better. Of course, even if that report is wrong, the treaty is valuable and mutually beneficial for many other reasons, but its value to American and allied security only increases if there is some substance to this latest round of fearmongering.
This is one thing in the treaty debate that has never made much sense. Treaty opponents are overwhelmingly drawn from the ranks of people who viscerally dislike and distrust the Russian government, but they ought to be among the first to want to put Russia under a verification regime. As it stands, they are working very hard to prevent the re-establishment of any verification regime. Whether or not they claim to want some ideally superior means of verification, they are taking the position that the regime established by this treaty should not be implemented.
Despite the best efforts of some hawkish interventionists to pretend that arms control is a relic of the past and irrelevant to today’s problems, they are the ones most likely to portray Russia as an existing or emerging threat to its neighbors. They should be the ones most eager to limit and constrain Russia through treaty obligations. Even if they don’t believe that Russia will comply with the treaty, it is hawks who should want to impose obligations and limits on Russia’s arsenal. Instead, it is the most anti-Russian and hawkish figures who are effectively enabling Russian power. What is remarkable about this is that these are the same people who could not stop haranguing the administration for betraying Poland and the Czech Republic when there was no betrayal, and they are the ones who remain convinced that it is the administration that is giving in to Russian demands when Russia has obtained virtually nothing tangible from the “reset.” Now that they are presented with an opportunity to side with European allies in support of greater U.S. and European security, they have opted instead for a rejectionist position that would keep the U.S. largely blind to Russian activities, increase uncertainty about Russia’s arsenal, and add to allied anxieties about potential Russian threats.
Update: McCain’s amendment failed 39-57. Based on the amendment voting, we can get a good idea of where the dedicated Republican opposition to ratification is. Scott Brown, Bob Corker, Lindsey Graham, John McCain, and even Joe Lieberman, Lisa Murkowski, Olympia Snowe, and Johnny Isakson voted yes on the amendment. That means that four Senators previously considered to be more or less in support of ratification just voted for a measure that would have scuttled the treaty. Obviously, the treaty has no chance if the supporters of the amendment go on to oppose ratification.
Second Update: There was another amendment vote Sunday. Sen. Risch’s amendment would have added language to the preamble stating a relationship between tactical and strategic weapons. This would not actually change any of the obligations in the treaty, but would have resulted in scuttling the treaty by forcing it to go back to negotiations. The Risch amendment failed 32-60.
New START ratification appears to hinge largely on the position that McCain and his allies take. Despite what you may have heard about his tentative support, McCain’s remarks during the treaty debate have been largely discouraging for treaty supporters. If McCain diverts deliberations over the treaty into a debate over the internal affairs of Russia, and it seems that he wants to do just that, we already know the position McCain will take, and that will be the inflexibly anti-Russian position in which voting against the treaty will serve as a rebuke to the Kremlin. It would hardly be the first time that McCain has argued for jeopardizing U.S. interests for the sake of an irrational anti-Russian pose.
McCain has made it clear that he intends to introduce a missile defense amendment to the treaty this afternoon. If this is an amendment to the preamble, as I suspect it is, it is worse than worthless. This amendment will almost certainly be rejected, as any amendment will further delay ratification and could potentially wreck the entire agreement, and so we should assume that McCain will then claim that he cannot accept the treaty in its current form. Graham and Brown will probably follow his lead, and this will give Corker cover to jump into the anti-ratification camp. Assuming that Isakson and Murkowski are “yes” votes, that gives the treaty six Republican votes. If McCain opposes the treaty, Graham, Brown, and Corker will have to vote for it if it is going to pass. However, if McCain opposes the treaty by invoking missile defense, as he seems likely to do, Graham and Brown will follow suit.
Even if it did pass, it would be the narrowest margin for a successful treaty of this kind that there has ever been. Unfortunately, I still expect that the treaty will not be ratified this year, but I will be delighted to be wrong.
Update: Daniel Foster reports that McCain and Graham are inclining towards opposition, and Corker may be as well. Corker objects to the stand-alone “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal being brought up this weekend. Obviously, voting down an important treaty to register a complaint about a completely separate matter would be petty, but the fate of the treaty may be partly decided because of opposition to an unrelated measure.
Second Update: It’s possible to read Corker’s remarks as a warning from someone sympathetic to the treaty rather than a threat to vote against it, but the danger to the treaty remains.
Third Update: I’m watching the debate on McCain’s amendment, which is indeed an attempt to strip out the preamble language referring to defensive weapons. As I said, it’s worse than worthless, and it confirms that McCain will not support the treaty. Foster has updated his post to include Graham’s objection to the preamble language:
Senator Graham, in remarks just now on the Senate floor, said New START’s preamble, which many believe contains an implicit limitation on U.S. missile defense, should be taken out of treaty, or else it “would be better not to do the treaty.” “You should not sign the treaty” without losing the preamble, Graham said.
A prominent conservative political action committee is vowing to defeat any Republican senator who votes to ratify the New START nuclear arms control treaty with Russia in the lame-duck session of Congress.
The National Republican Trust PAC is making its pledge in a letter that was obtained by RealClearPolitics before it was set to be delivered on Friday afternoon.
In the letter, the PAC’s executive director Scott Wheeler writes to National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Sen. John Cornyn and Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele that the group is “fully committed” to defeating any GOP senator that votes for ratification during the lame-duck session.
“We as a country cannot allow our national defense to be greatly undermined by a President and members of a lame duck Congress who are hell-bent on redistributing America’s military advantage because of their bizarre belief that the US lacks the moral authority to be the world’s lone superpower,” the letter says. “Republicans cannot and must not participate in the sell out of our national defense merely because of political pressures applied to them by an extremist President and a liberal media.”
In the letter, Wheeler goes on to write that the group will recruit primary challengers and “will be singular in the purpose” of defeating pro-ratification Republican senators.~Scott Conroy
The good news is that I very much doubt this will discourage any of the likely supporters of the treaty. Republican Senators inclined to support New START know what the treaty actually does and doesn’t do, so it’s not as if they’re going to be forced to change positions because of this sort of nonsense. Republican voters are typically split fifty-fifty on the issue, and it’s hardly something that is going to determine the outcome of a primary race. At least two probable pro-treaty Senators are retiring (Voinovich, Gregg), Lugar and Snowe are up for re-election in 2012 but are very popular in their states, and almost all of the other vulnerable 2012 incumbents have already sided with Kyl against ratifying in this session, and most of the 2012 incumbents are staunch opponents of the treaty. Isakson is one of the more likely votes for ratification, but he isn’t up again until 2016.
Corker is one of the special targets of this campaign, and he has already hedged his support for the treaty in this session with so many qualifications that it is unlikely that he will vote to ratify. Scott Brown voted for the motion to proceed, but that is no guarantee that he will vote for the treaty. If he does, that will mean that this PAC has vowed to launch a primary challenge against exactly one beatable incumbent in a heavily Democratic state. This PAC has effectively promised to undo the results of the 2010 Massachusetts election and give back a seat to the other party, and all for the sake of enforcing a ludicrous ideological test against an obviously desirable treaty.
I can understand the impulse to challenge and expel party moderates, and if this were a general protest against the overall voting record of some of these Senators it would make some sense on its own terms. Launching a single-issue primary challenge over an arms control treaty that 70-80% of Americans support is a stunning waste of time and resources. The donors to this PAC must be pleased to know that their money is going to be thrown away for no reason.
Wheeler says that the treaty is more important than the stimulus. He’s right, but not in the way that he means it. Challenging incumbents for supporting the treaty is both substantively wrong and politically foolish. Helping to push Specter out of the party on account of his support for the stimulus bill led to the passage of health care legislation. If anti-ratification forces are successful in blocking the treaty, they will responsible for something much worse for U.S. security and interests.
Covert U.S. support for Jundullah, the Baluchi separatist/terrorist group in southeastern Iran, hasn’t been much of a secret for a long time. Were it not for the recent State Department decision to label Jundullah as a terrorist group, I don’t think anyone would have thought that things had changed. In light of the atrocity carried out against the people in Chahbahar by Jundullah, it would be especially shameful and foolish if our government had lent the group any support in the last two years. As the Leveretts noted in May 2009, the Obama administration had apparently not cancelled any of the covert programs begun under its predecessor.
Responding to Reza Aslan’s column on the subject, Greg Scoblete remains skeptical about the possibility of ongoing U.S. support for Jundullah, but adds “you’d have to marvel at the incredible absurdity of such a policy, should it exist.” Well, Greg and I would marvel at it. I assume we are more or less in agreement that directly encouraging Pakistan-based terrorism and militancy against one of its neighbors is incomparably stupid. It becomes even more so when our government has policies regarding Afghanistan, Pakistan and India that are supposedly aimed at discouraging exactly these things on the grounds that such activity contribute to the destabilization of Pakistan, regional insecurity, and the undermining of the U.S. war effort. Then again, there are quite a few anti-Iranian hawks who would be very pleased by such a policy. Indeed, if one assumes that wreaking havoc, fostering ethnic separatism, encouraging internal political violence, and destabilizing the Iranian government are desirable goals, and for the most part these hawks do, aiding Jundullah makes perverse, morally bankrupt sense. Like most hawkish Iran policy options, backing ethnic separatist groups to undermine the Iranian government does not create changes in Iran’s government or its behavior, but simply exposes Iranian citizens to additional suffering for no discernible purpose except to demonstrate that Washington is “doing something” to punish Iran for its nuclear program.
We can hope that the official designation of Jundullah as a terrorist group means that the U.S. is no longer actively supporting it, but there is one example that comes to mind that makes me think this designation may not matter when it comes to U.S. backing. A year before the bombing of Yugoslavia, the State Department listed the KLA as a terrorist group, and by 1999 the U.S. and NATO were waging an illegal war against Yugoslavia on behalf of that terrorist group. As many will have already seen by now, the wartime leader of that group and head of Kosovo’s current government, Hacim Thaci, has been linked with drug and organ-trafficking. That will come as a surprise to exactly no one who paid at any attention to the nature of the KLA as an organization. In any case, that suggests that officially designating a group as a terrorist organization does not bar U.S. support for that group now or in the future.
P.S. Here is the Leveretts’ post on the capture of the Jundullah leader Abdolmalek Rigi. If Washington is not supporting Jundullah now, there is a widespread belief in Iran that this is still the case.
Democrats will likely feel Wyden’s absence almost immediately as they try to garner enough votes to pass all of this legislation plus the START Treaty, which requires the support of two-thirds of the Senate for ratification. ~The Politico
It’s certainly true that Wyden’s absence could affect the fate of other measures before the Senate, but for the purposes of ratifying New START his absence does not change anything. The treaty will still need the same number of Republican votes to be ratified. Article II, Sec. 2 clearly states, “He [the President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present [bold mine-DL] concur….” Wyden’s absence will bring the Democratic caucus down to 57 votes, but the number needed to ratify will also drop to 66, which still means that nine Republicans have to vote for the treaty. Ratification doesn’t get harder. It just remains as difficult as before.
Even when he’s mid-pander, you always know that he [Romney] knows that it’s all just a freak show, and you can always sense that he’d rather be at a policy seminar somewhere, instead of just forking red meat. There’s a highly competent chief executive trapped inside his campaign persona, in other words, and the only way to liberate him is to put him in the White House!
This is an … unusual argument. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong: There were probably people who said the same thing about George H.W. Bush during his lackluster 1988 race — and he did turn out to be a reasonably good president, all things considered. But there’s still an element of absurdity about it. I believe that Mitt Romney is a more serious person, and would probably be a better president, than his campaign style suggests. But issue by issue, policy by policy, that same campaign style makes it awfully hard to figure out where he would actually stand when the pandering stops and the governing begins. In the last couple years, Romney has taken high-profile positions that I agree with (opposing the G.M. bailout), high-profile positions that I disagree with (opposing the START Treaty), and high-profile positions on issues I’m uncertain about (the current tax deal). But because everything he does feels like a pander, I don’t know where he really stands on any of them. And freak show or no freak show, base or no base, that’s no way to run for president.
Something that helps make sense of Romney’s positioning is its largely reactive quality. Despite his past claims that he understands leadership, he never leads on any issue. During the presidential campaign, Romney endorsed granting Detroit a huge subsidy when he thought it might help him in the Michigan primary. Later the same year, he fiercely opposed bailing out Detroit, because he perceived that support for the auto industry was not useful to him. He supported the TARP when that was the default Republican leadership position to take, and has since become a fierce critic of the management of the TARP once he realized that being identified as pro-TARP was politically toxic. The candidate who famously said that he “liked mandates” and has endorsed a mandate as the “conservative position” when he wanted to brag about his achievements cannot abide the individual mandate when it positions him against the health care bill. In other words, he has the ability to position himself for short-term political advantage rather well, but seems to have no notion of how to take one position–whether he “really” believes it or not–and stand by it for more than a year or so if there is some brief advantage to be had in changing positions in the meantime. This is what creates the impression that he has no enduring goal or vision other than the acquisition of political office and influence. All the while, he has the insufferable habit of embracing each and every new position with the zeal of a convert, convinced that he now has the moral authority to denounce anyone who disagrees, and then casually abandoning or neglecting the issue when something else shiny catches his attention.
My guess is that Romney doesn’t “really” have a stand on any of these issues, but what is annoying is not simply Romney’s lack of principle. Many and possibly most politicians are not that deeply committed to principles, and that’s to be expected, but Romney attaches a degree of smugness and sanctimony to the exercise that is genuinely obnoxious. What should be bothersome to his supporters is that his pandering is so impermanent and fleeting that he inspires no confidence that he will be in the same place a year or two from now. Very simply, he can’t be counted on and can’t be trusted.
The incoherence of his criticism of the tax deal is comparable to some of his nonsensical attacks on New START. Romney wants to find something wrong with virtually every element of the tax deal, and he wants to have it both ways on each element. Adding to the deficit is wrong, but the rates must be made permanent! One part of this is soulless pandering, another part of it is Romney’s desire to appear to be a superior technocratic expert, and finally there is evidently a desire to avoid making difficult decisions regarding trade-offs. This leads him to align himself politically with rejectionist ideologues while reinforcing his reputation as a “trimming” pragmatist and establishment Republican. By trying to have it both ways in his positioning, Romney does not enjoy credibility as a hard-liner and obtains none of the advantages of being a flexible deal-maker.
On the treaty, he objects to the verification regime proposed in the treaty, but he doesn’t want to ratify the treaty, which would at least put a verification regime in place instead of the lack of verification that we have now. Instead of staking out a firm position for or against arms control as represented in the treaty, Romney wants to pretend that he is both far more interested in arms control than treaty supporters and simultaneously more hostile to the outrageous sell-out of American advantages than the fiercest hawks. He argues that the treaty should be voted down because tactical nukes haven’t been included in a strategic arms reduction agreement, which is silly, but then complains that the treaty harms our national security because it has done nothing to reduce Russian tactical nukes, and that is simply irrational. If Romney were truly concerned about Russian tactical nukes, he would be eagerly advocating on behalf of the treaty, since there will be no chance of negotiating on tactical nuclear weapons if this agreement falls apart. Many of his objections to New START are ill-informed or ignorant, which is all the more damning when he claims to have greater insight than the consensus of the entire military and most arms control experts, but many of the arguments he uses try to have it both ways.
Sens. Jon Kyl of Arizona, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, John Thune of South Dakota, Christopher Bond of Missouri, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, George LeMieux of Florida and Mark Kirk of Illinois have called a press conference for 2:45 p.m. today to announce their opposition to ratification of the treaty during the lame-duck session.
Sens. Alexander and Kirk had given favorable signals about the treaty, and White House officials considered Sen. LeMieux a likely vote. ~The Wall Street Journal
I suppose it’s still remotely possible that the White House could come up with nine Republican votes, but if they were counting on Alexander, Kirk, and LeMieux it appears that they were badly mistaken or misled in declaring that they had the votes for ratification. There was no good reason to think Kirk was going to vote for it this year. As conditions for his support, he had been demanding documents and briefings, including the negotiating record that the administration has not made available to anyone. LeMieux is reportedly interested in running for the other Florida Senate seat in 2012, and presumably his opposition today is connected to his desire to satisfy movement conservatives before he leaves office. Alexander was probably going to jump whichever way Kyl did, and Kyl’s position on this had become pretty clear weeks ago.
The nine would have to include Lugar, Corker, Isakson, Bennett, Voinovich, Collins, Snowe, and Gregg, plus one more. Corker has expressed doubts about ratifying the treaty during this session. Snowe’s public support is conditional and hinges on having “enough time for debate and amendments.” Scott Brown has so far shown no signs of being in favor of the treaty. Now that Kyl is openly organizing against the treaty, there is not much reason to expect McCain or Graham to vote for it. They have made it clear that they are going to defer to Kyl’s lead. Delaying the treaty now will almost certainly mean that the treaty will not be ratified.
Update: On cue, McCain says that he doesn’t want to vote on the treaty this year. DeMint has also decided to drop his plan to force a reading of the treaty. This is probably because he realizes that his delaying tactics are no longer necessary.
Second Update: DeMint has called off having the treaty read aloud, but Reid has delayed the start of debate until tomorrow as a result, so DeMint’s stunt already had its desired effect.
Third Update: Looking over the roll call of the motion to proceed, which passed 66-32, I see that Corker and Isakson voted no. It seems improbable that they would vote for ratification if they didn’t even want to have a debate in this session. McCain has said that he doesn’t want to vote on the treaty this year, which leaves just eight potential supporters on the Republican side.
Fourth Update: According to The Hill, Bob Bennett was present at Kyl’s press conference this afternoon:
Bennett appeared at Kyl’s press conference, where he said, “I would hope that we could reach accord and I would hope that it would be next year [bold mine-DL].”
If Bennett is against voting on the treaty this year, I don’t see how the treaty passes.
The earmarks in the omnibus bill account for $8 billion in spending. It is possible that all of this spending is unnecessary and horrible, but it constitutes just six-tenths of one percent of the entire bill. All of this could be stripped out, and there would still be 1.192 trillion dollars left in the bill. Naturally, it is this minuscule, irrelevant portion of the bill that has received all of the attention:
“The American people said just 42 days ago, ‘Enough!’ . . . Are we tone deaf? Are we stricken with amnesia?” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a leading earmark critic, said on the Senate floor, flipping through the 1,924-page bill as he pounded his desk.
If the public isn’t opposed to the gargantuan $860 billion tax deal that McCain’s party leaders just agreed to add to the debt, and apparently they aren’t, why would anyone suppose that the public would be outraged over spending that is less than one percent of the value of the tax deal? The only thing more tiresome than the charade of pretending that opposing earmarks is proof of fiscal rectitude is the mindless repetition of the claim that earmarks represent some sort of betrayal of the public trust. The omnibus bill includes earmarks added by Senate Republicans, and because of the silly earmark moratorium Senate Republicans wanted to adopt the presence of their earmarks has become news. However, possibly the only thing more ridiculous than having politicians complain about the evils of earmarks is complaining about members’ earmark hypocrisy. Instead of harping on members’ inconsistency on this point, we should welcome it as proof that the fixation on earmarks is a ridiculous distraction from the real causes of our current fiscal mess.
As the Senate prepares to take up President Obama’s new arms control treaty with Russia on Wednesday for the first time, a Republican opponent of the pact plans to force the entire text to be read in hopes of keeping it from being approved in the lame-duck session.
The reading of bills and other measures is usually dispensed on the Senate floor but because that requires unanimous consent, a single senator can block it. Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, declared that he would object, meaning that clerks will have to read the full text of the so-called New Start treaty and protocol, which could take 12 to 15 hours. ~Peter Baker
One thing that you can say about Jim DeMint is that he follows through on his threats. Earlier in the month, he had suggested that he might use delaying tactics to slow down and block the treaty during the lame-duck session, and he is going to do just that. DeMint has at least twenty-one colleagues on the Republican side that will probably join with him in these blocking maneuvers, and the more that the hard-line treaty opponents stall the easier it will be for the equivocating members of the leadership to repeat their claim that “there is not enough time.” After Kyl caused the treaty’s consideration to be delayed until after the election, it will make it that much easier for anti-treaty irreconcilables to drag out the process over the next nine days and make sure that there really won’t be enough time. The less time for actual debate on the treaty, the easier it is for Kyl to complain that the majority was trying to “jam” the treaty through. Kyl has already said that he will organize votes against the treaty if it is brought to a vote before Christmas:
He did not rule out a vote this year, but set conditions that might be hard for the administration to meet, including a long floor debate. “If they try to jam us, if they try to bring this up the week before Christmas, it’ll be defeated,” he said. “If they allow plenty of time for it, and I think it will take two weeks, then it’s a different matter.”
DeMint’s delaying maneuvers help make the long floor debate impossible, and that makes Kyl’s threat more meaningful. Kyl also reiterated this threat yesterday in very plain terms: “And if he [Reid] does bring it up, I will work very hard to achieve that result, namely that the treaty fails.” To the extent that the omnibus bill meets with similar resistance, which DeMint has also promised to lead, that helps eat up more time, and it gives Kyl another excuse for his opposition to voting on the treaty this session.
Jennifer Rubin is already busily trying to spin all of this as the fault of the Democratic leadership:
Will Russian “reset” cheerleaders, gay activists, and Hispanic groups feel aggrieved? If so, they should take it up with the Democratic House and Senate leaders who had two years to get their business done.
As far as New START is concerned, that is simply false. The treaty wasn’t even signed until April, and consideration of the treaty has been delayed until now to satisfy the “concerns” of Senate Republicans. Almost all of the time since the treaty-signing has been wasted by the minority’s delaying tactics in the form of Kyl’s demands for ever more money. Having wasted all of that time and held up consideration of the treaty for the sake of these bogus “concerns,” the minority has continued to throw up as many obstacles as possible. Assuming that New START is not ratified, most of the Senate Republicans are the ones responsible.
Update: Josh Rogin reports that several Republican Senators (including Kyl and DeMint) have won a procedural battle that will make it easier to wreck the ratification process:
To prepare for the coming debate, several GOP senators asked the Senate parliamentarian to give an official ruling on whether the preamble to the treaty is open for amendments.
Treaty supporters object to amending the preamble, because any changes would force the treaty to go back to bilateral negotiations with the Russians, which could take months and possibly even scuttle New START entirely [bold mine-DL].
This is why treaty supporters refer to such amendments as “treaty killers.” The negative effect that amendments would have on the process is likely far greater than the effect the amendments would have on the agreement itself.
On Tuesday, the parliamentarian ruled in the GOP’s favor, stating that yes, the preamble to the treaty is amendable. We’re told that several GOP senators are preparing to try to amend it to take out the language that acknowledges the link between offensive and defensive missile capabilities.
What is extraordinary about this is that the language in the premable is non-binding. The language these Senators want taken out has no effect on missile defense. Acknowledging the relationship between defensive weapons and strategic arms is a statement of the obvious. As Fred Kaplan has described it before, it is “Arms Control 101.” It entails no substantive commitments or limits on the part of the U.S. For the sake of deleting this unremarkable, non-binding language, GOP Senators are prepared to kill the entire treaty. Of course, that is the real purpose of the exercise.
In an interview today in the New York Times (page A1, no less!), Ron Paul states that “it’s at least 50-50 that I’ll run again,” meaning that he thinks there’s at least a 50% chance he’ll run in the 2012 Republican Presidential primary. Combined with the increasing likelihood that former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson will also be running in that primary, this creates the strong prospect of two more or less proud libertarians running in the 2012 primary. This leads Matt Welch to ask of libertarians “Which of the four possible scenarios (Paul & Johnson both run, neither of them run, or one of them runs) would you prefer, and why?”
I think the answer here is pretty clearly that libertarians are best off if both run. There is, to be sure, a virtual guarantee that Johnson and Paul would split the libertarian vote within the GOP primary such as it exists. But let’s be honest here: neither of them are going to come remotely close to winning the nomination under any conceivable circumstances.
What both Johnson and Paul running would accomplish is that it would double the rather minimal attention paid to libertarians and libertarianism during the primary process. It would mean twice as many questions directed towards libertarian candidates during the tedious debate process. It would also mean significantly more national television appearances for libertarian candidates. ~Mark Thompson
No one has asked me, but I’m inclined to agree with Thompson that it would largely help to have more competitors in the Republican primary defending civil liberties, arguing against unnecessary wars, and presenting an uncompromising challenge to Republican enabling of government profligacy and debt. Instead of being limited to the strengths and weaknesses of just one of them, both would be competing. In so doing, they would be providing natural alternatives for voters sympathetic to their overall message that might have otherwise ended up rejecting one or the other.
Speculating on a scenario in which Johnson ran and Paul didn’t, Jim Antle worried that Johnson would be “a less effective messenger in the primary process than Paul.” If Paul is also campaigning, he could continue to deliver his message and build on the movement from 2008 and after, and Johnson’s effectiveness or lack of it would not be as critical for advancing or sinking the coalition. If Johnson proved to be equally effective in putting across the message, that could only help expose more Republicans to their ideas. Dan McCarthy was concerned that “Johnson might sidetrack Paul into discussions that would make it easier for the party establishment to marginalize both of them,” but my guess is that neither of them wants to carry on such dead-end discussions. Instead of the usual 7 or 8-against-1 odds that prevailed during the Republican primary debates in 2007 and 2008, Johnson and Paul would be a ready-made pair of allies criticizing the other candidates and presenting their alternatives in turn.
There is the possibility of another round of the usual fratricidal bickering that often drags down libertarian and traditional conservative causes, but I suspect that even if this were to happen it would be limited to arguments between supporters of the two campaigns.