Via Josh Rogin, this Heritage Action mailer represents the latest push to
browbeat persuade the few pro-ratification Republicans and a couple conservative Democrats in the Senate to vote against START. As Rogin reports, the trouble with the mailer is that several of its claims are so transparently ridiculous to anyone who follows this issue that it has little chance of achieving its intended effect. It may stir up some discontent among voters in the targeted states, but it seems unlikely that any of the targeted Senators will vote against the treaty because of this. However, as a little piece of propaganda it is worth looking at a little closer.
For the purposes of fearmongering, the mailer is fairly well done. It shows Obama shaking hands with Putin instead of Medvedev to maximize the visceral reaction, since most of the mailer’s recipients probably wouldn’t recognize Medvedev and haven’t been conditioned to regard him as a villain. Next to the picture are the words “Urgent: Who will defend us?” The implication is that Obama obviously won’t, which leaves it up to Sen. Corker (or whichever Senator happens to be targeted in a given mailer). Just below that is a series of photos of Obama, Putin and Ahmadinejad next to one another, which manages to introduce Iran into the discussion when it has absolutely nothing to do with the treaty, and just under the image is the claim that “our national security is at stake.” Why is it at stake? Because Corker has voted for that no-good treaty, of course! As the mailer puts it, “Why did Senator Bob Corker vote in committee to put Russia’s military interests ahead of our own?” This isn’t what he did at all, but Heritage has been misleading people about START for the last year and isn’t about to stop now.
There then follows a list of things that START supposedly does that it doesn’t do, and caps it off with this remarkably bold-faced lie:
And though President Obama claims START will reduce nuclear weapons, in fact, it will only lead to more nuclear weapons in the hands of rogue countries like Iran and North Korea—countries who want to destroy us.
This makes no sense. Obviously Iran and North Korea have nothing to do with any of this. There is no way that ratification of this treaty would lead to the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran and North Korea. In fact, one way to facilitate nuclear arms proliferation is to prevent the establishment of verification mechanisms that allow the U.S. to keep tabs on the Russian arsenal.
It is telling that the most emotionally powerful claim the mailer makes is also the most dishonest. It is an admission that the only way to portray the treaty as a threat to national security is to make up wild, unfounded stories. I confess that I don’t fully understand why the Heritage Foundation is so intent on shredding its remaining credibility by putting out such junk arguments. The treaty will most likely not have enough votes for ratification anyway even if Corker, Baucus, Tester and the rest vote for it, and a vote in the lame-duck session may not even happen.
Update: Well, this didn’t take long. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker doesn’t want there to be a vote on START during the lame-duck session, and he was one of the three Republicans likely to be a yes vote. Rogin reports:
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), one of three Republicans to vote for the treaty on Sept. 16 in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, hasn’t yet committed to voting for the treaty on the floor. He now says that he doesn’t think there’s enough time in the post-election congressional session to properly debate and vote on the pact.
“Senator Corker believes it is far more appropriate to deal with major pieces of legislation like this in settings other than a lame duck session,” Todd Womack, his chief of staff, told The Cable.
Barring something extraordinary happening, the treaty is dead, and the “reset” with Russia is in much worse shape than it was last week.