Stephen Rademaker’s defensive op-ed in the Washington Post is a fairly transparent effort to shift blame for the delays in the ratification of New START to the Democrats. According to Rademaker, the failure of New START could never actually be blamed on pouting GOP Senators who refused to vote for the treaty and therefore endangered our nuclear security merely because they don’t like Obama. No, obviously if New START fails it’s not because the GOP didn’t vote for it, it’s because John Kerry would have “rushed” or “pressured” GOP Senators.
This sort of up is down logic seems to be all opponents have left in the START debate. What is so amusing about Rademaker’s op-ed is that he essentially says that all the GOP policy concerns can be met in such a way that they can vote yes. There is of course a reason why their concerns can be met — they are mostly baseless and stupid concerns that exist due to a seemingly general failing of high school level reading comprehension. For instance, Rademaker sights a concern that the treaty doesn’t mention certain types of missiles –- well this is because they don’t exist, but if they did exist they actually would be covered. Yet no matter how ridiculous, all these concerns have been addressed endlessly in the more than 20 hearings that were held. As a result, the debate over START has become tediously repetitive and is now largely about something that has nothing to do with the actual treaty — nuclear pork.
The real heart of Rademaker’s piece, however, is more process whining. He claims “and if treaty critics aren’t going to be accommodated on questions of process, they almost certainly aren’t going to be accommodated on substance.” But Rademaker’s claims are completely off base.
First, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee DELAYED the vote until September so GOP Senators didn’t feel rushed. If a vote were held before the August recess, perhaps the GOP could hang their hat on something, but the vote was delayed so that all the i’s can be dotted and all the t’s crossed.
Second, claims that it is justified for GOP Senators to hold up the vote because they didn’t get the negotiating record are bunk. In US history, treaty negotiating records were almost always kept private and almost every US President has insisted this be the case. Yet Rademaker’s claims that there is precedent for the release and he points to a past arms-control treaty where the record was released. But the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time in a bipartisan letter specifically noted that the release of the record should be seen as an exception not a precedent. But even with all that being said, the Administration recently shared the negotiating record dealing with missile defense with the GOP Senators.
Third, the complaints about START critics not being heard, while not being true, is largely a reflection of there being so few START opponents. Kerry in fact held hearings featuring substantially more Republicans than Democrats. But the committee, to appease far-right Senators Jim Demint and James Inhofe, searched and found anti-nuclear arms control ideologues like the Bush administration’s Robert Joseph and Eric Edelman and Keith Payne were heard from.
Finally, Rademaker claims the Senate should look to the Chemical Weapons Convention as a model and follow its slow two year approach. This is comparing apples to oranges. That was an entirely new treaty, with brand new implications, and that did not have any urgency about it. New START is merely continuing and updating the status quo – we know what this treaty does. So spending two years on it is just a huge waste of time. But moreover, the go slow approach is one that is extremely dangerous as we are losing intelligence on Russian nukes and missiles as inspections have ceased. Senator Jon Kyl, claimed to have not known this and as David Broder noted, “what a price to pay for ignorance.” And as John Farrell, an editor at US News and World Report noted, “Are Republican senators providing aid and comfort to the Russian military?… the answer to this question is: Yes.”
Rademaker’s oped is simply a transparent attempt to deflect criticism from the GOP for doing something incredibly reckless – obstructing the START treaty. It also demonstrates just how weak the opposition’s case to START really is. Rademaker didn’t write a piece nitpicking New START – that has already been done and rebuffed – he didn’t write a piece opposing the treaty, and he didn’t even write a piece that really talked about the treaty. No, he wrote a whole op-ed making false and dubious claims whining about process. To invoke the spirit of Alan Iverson, “process!” “what are we talking about? We’re talking about process man.” This is all opponents have left is to grasp at is process. And even there they have nothing to grasp at.