Three weeks ago Mitt Romney said hyperbolically that New START was Obama’s “worst foreign policy mistake.” After getting absolutely slammed, Romney is back today with a piece in the National Review that signifies a significant rhetorical retreat. Far from being the “worst mistake,” Romney now merely says there are eight problems and the “Senate should not ratify the treaty until they are resolved.” Romney’s climb down from his hyperbolic and factually flawed op-ed is notable.
Yet he still goes about reiterating the same false and disingenious arguments that have been made before by him and his friends at the Heritage Foundation. There is nothing new to see here. Based on how thoroughly Romney’s laundry list of eight problems have been rebutted and answered again and again, all this issues have in effect been “resolved” and the debate over the treaty specifics is essentially over.
And that in and of itself demonstrates that the claims of Senator Kyl that the Senate is “rushing” START through to be patently absurd. Every one of Mitt Romney’s points have been made and refuted countless times. I have the posts to prove it – on missile defense preamble, on the conversion of missile defense silos, on the bomber counter rule, on rail-mobile missiles, on tactical nuclear weapons, on telemetry, on MIRVing missiles, on verification, on prompt global strike. The debate over START has been exhausted. The facts are out, the Generals, the experts, the lab directors have all spoken in support of the treaty. Nothing new has been revealed, and nothing new is being said.
Since the debate over the specifics of the treaty has been exhausted. Two different approaches toward the treaty are being revealed on the conservative right.
The first is the rationale for the steadfast opposition to the treaty from Mitt Romney, the Heritage Foundation, and Senators Inhofe (R-OK) and DeMint (R-SC) is all about pure ideological extremism. It’s driven by ideology not facts. They simply are opposed to arms-control and view the Russians as out to get us. They don’t want to reduce nuclear arsenals, they want to buld and test new nuclear weapons. They don’t want cooperative relations with the Russians, they want to bury Russian nuclear power status by showing them we are nuclear superior. That is why they harp on the fact that we have to cut a few more weapons and launchers than the Russians as a huge weakness of the treaty. But really the only reason to care about who cuts slightly more is if you are still completely stuck in the Cold War. The fact is that if we were to expand our nuclear arsenal, the Russians would scrounge up the rubles to do the same. It is pointless and would kill off any efforts to deal with nuclear terrorism – something the right seems to totally not comprehend – and would needlessly waste billions on new useless nukes.
The second approach is more practical and is being pursued by nuclear neo-con ideologues like Senator Kyl who, realizing that opposing the treaty is really politically difficult given the overwhelming support for it, are now trying to slow the process down to extract greater concessions from the Administration. This “slow down” approach is a standard GOP obstructionist ploy in the Senate. To Kyl, the START debate isn’t really about START – he even called the treaty “benign” – it is about defeating or doing whatever he can to hamstring further arms-control efforts. Therefore Kyl is needlessly calling for a delay until the next budget cycle, claiming he needs proof that the money will be in the budget. In reality, he just wants to get next year because he thinks there will be more GOP Senators, thereby increasing his leverage.
In the end, even Fred Hiatt’s neoconservative Washington Post op-ed page today is advocating calling Kyl’s bluff and ratifying the treaty this year. The facts are out and the entire US military brass and almost every sensible foreign policy thinker is supportive of the treaty. Mitt Romney is clearly neither of those.