Yesterday, President Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev signed an agreement to negotiate a successor to the soon-to-expire START treaty that would “cut American and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals by at least one-quarter.” Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) — “seasoned killer of past arms control treaties” — responded to news of the agreement on Bill Bennett’s radio show this morning by claiming that the Obama administration is “more anxious to make a deal than it is to ensure the protection of the United States.” Bennett told Kyl that he “didn’t think the reductions in missiles by the amount they were doing it was that serious,” but asked him to elaborate:
KYL: In the past, our assessment of what we need to protect our interests as well as the allies that rely on our nuclear umbrella put the number of weapons as a certain level. And the administration is planning to go far below that. … I’m very concerned that the administration is more anxious to make a deal than it is to ensure the protection of the United States.
Kyl’s remarks today demonstrate further that Obama’s right-wing critics are more interested in accusing the President of not wanting to protect the nation than they are in offering substantive critiques of his policy proposals. Last week, Kyl made similar arguments alongside Iraq war architect Richard Perle in the Wall Street Journal. The two wrote that Obama’s widely-praised plans to work toward the elimination of all nuclear weapons were “dangerous, wishful thinking.”
On the specifics of the agreement Obama reached yesterday, Kyl appears to be nearly alone in objecting to it. Even the traditionally-partisan Newt Gingrich endorsed the goals that Obama laid out in a speech yesterday in Moscow. “There is much in it to support,” Gingrich wrote on Twitter. And despite Kyl’s attempts to portray Obama’s commitment yesterday to eliminate just a portion of the U.S. nuclear arsenal as detrimental to U.S. national security, James Collins and Jack Matlock remind us that former President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev “came within a hair’s breadth of agreeing to the complete elimination of nuclear weapons within 10 years” during their 1986 summit.