In the Washington Post today John Kerry responds to Mitt Romney’s oped by accusing him of putting scoring cheap political points above the safety and security of the American people. Kerry takes Romney to task for making “narrow, uninformed political objections” to START. Kerry goes through each of Romney’s claims noting that one is a “myth,” another is “baloney,” “flat wrong,” and a “red herring.” He assesses that:
Even in these polarized times, anyone seeking the presidency should know that the security of the United States is too important to be treated as fodder for political posturing. Sadly, former governor Mitt Romney failed that test… He disregarded the views of the best foreign policy thinkers of the past half-century, but more important, he ignored the facts…. I have nothing against Massachusetts politicians running for president. But the world’s most important elected office carries responsibilities, including the duty to check your facts even if you’re in a footrace to the right against Sarah Palin. More than that, you need to understand that when it comes to nuclear danger, the nation’s security is more important than scoring cheap political points.
The Slate’s Fred Kaplan further demolishes Romney’s oped noting that:
In 35 years of following debates over nuclear arms control, I have never seen anything quite as shabby, misleading and—let’s not mince words—thoroughly ignorant as Mitt Romney’s attack on the New START treaty in the July 6 Washington Post… Romney, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts, clearly feels the need to pump up some foreign-policy swagger in advance of the 2012 presidential primaries. But one would think he could have found a ghostwriter who had even the vaguest acquaintance with the subject matter… And if this is the best the Republicans can do to beat down the New START treaty, well, that’s just sad.
As I noted yesterday, Romney gets so much factually wrong that it is hard not to call his oped a total joke. For instance, Romney yesterday argued that “Russia is free to mount a nearly unlimited number of ICBMs on bombers – including MIRVs or multiple warheads.” The only problem is that this is such a stupid idea that the U.S. and Russia have long since rejected it. It is like saying your going to put a tank on a submarine – it makes no sense. And if Russia were dumb enough to put ICBMs on bombers, they would still almost certainly be counted under the treaty.
So why did Mitt Romney enter the fray on the START treaty when he clearly knows nothing about it? For Romney this is nothing new. He has long been unserious on foreign policy and eager to adopt the extreme right position of the day. He is after all one of the first to utter the ridiculous phrase “Islamofascism” and the man who when asked in a primary debate if wanted to close Guantanamo said he wanted to double it.
From a political perspective Romney is severely compromised with the Republican base for his past liberal positions on domestic and social policy issues (pro-choice, health care reform, etc). But one area where he is a blank slate is on foreign policy. And Romney has made a concerted effort to fully embrace the Heritage Foundation’s national security positions. He gave a foreign policy speech there last year and his oped yesterday is a recycling of the “tired” arguments that Heritage has been desperately throwing at the wall since the START ratification process began. Defeating START is such a priority to Heritage that their new “action” 501c4 aspect to their organization has prioritized its defeat. Marc Ambinder also reported that Romney had contact with former Senator Jim Talent who just happens to be at the Heritage Foundation.
Heritage’s blind opposition to START and there resulting looseness with the facts is not surprising. To them this is religion. They are simply completely ideologically and theologicially opposed to arms-control and will say anything to block the treaty. After all they don’t want fewer nuclear weapons in the world, they want more. As an institution they are firmly with Senator Jim DeMint in believing that the Cold War has never ended, that we need to build and explosively test new nuclear weapons and that we should abandon decades of bipartisan policy and specifically target Russia with our missile defense systems – which would mean spending trillions to turn it into some sort of magical force field.