Military Leaders, Newspapers, And Republicans Criticize Kyl And Senate GOP For START Obstruction

Following Senator Jon Kyl’s (R-AZ) announcement last week that he will delay and obstruct the New START treaty, many in the media presumed that START was all but dead. Yet the White House, knowing that it is now or never for the START treaty, doubled down and put its credibility on the line demanding a vote now. The move was risky, but in the last week, Democrats, the nation’s major newspapers, members of the military and even many Republicans have publicly denounced Kyl and Senate Republicans for their START objection.

The administration demonstrated the high level bipartisan backing for the treaty when it brought former National Security Advisors and Secretaries of State and Defense to the White House, including Republicans Henry Kissinger, George Schultz, James Baker, and Brent Scowcroft. On the Sunday shows this past weekend, Admiral Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs emphasized that the military of the United States wants this treaty ratified right now. This has highlighted that Republicans are rejecting the advice of military leaders. At the NATO Summit in Lisbon last week leaders from East, Central, and Western Europe all came out in unanimous support for the treaty and called on the Senate to ratify. Finally, the President used his weekly address to emphasize the need to ratify the treaty and attacked Republicans for wanting “to trust but not verify.”

In the last week, 17 editorial boards in states from all over country like Utah, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Missouri, Maine, Texas and Iowa, have eviscerated Kyl and Senate Republicans for their obstruction. The Louisville Courier called Kyl’s move an “outrage.” Kyl was described as “narrow-minded,” politically “craven,” and as putting forth “lame excuses.” The New York Times even said Iran should send Kyl a “thank you note.”

The presumption over the last generation has been that when it comes to national security debate, progressives always lose. But following the foreign policy disaster of the Bush administration, the country simply doesn’t trust Republicans on national security. An ABC/Washington Post poll taken right before the election showed that Americans trust Democrats more on national security 45 percent to 40 percent for Republicans. Given that 73 percent of Americans support the New START treaty, according to a just released CNN poll, the stance of Kyl and Senate Republicans is proving incredibly unpopular.

Here is what 17 newspaper editorial boards around the country are saying: Louisville Courier-Journal:

The determination of the national Republican Party to oppose anything that could be construed as a victory for President Obama has moved from being irresponsible to downright dangerous. Republican preoccupation with limiting Mr. Obama to one term — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s top priority — is reckless enough at a time of persistent high unemployment and economic hardship. Now comes an effort, led by Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., to block the lame-duck Senate session from ratifying the crucial New Start nuclear arms treaty with Russia…This is an outrage.

The New York Times:

The world’s nuclear wannabes, starting with Iran, should send a thank you note to Senator Jon Kyl… The treaty is so central to this country’s national security, and the objections from Mr. Kyl — and apparently the whole Republican leadership — are so absurd that the only explanation is their limitless desire to deny President Obama any legislative success.

Los Angeles Times:

when Republican Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the GOP’s point man on the issue, decided this week that the treaty wasn’t important enough to be taken up by the lame-duck Congress, it was pretty clear that he was acting not in the interest of the nation but of his party.

Knoxville News Sentinel:

The minority whip’s foot-dragging could make it tougher for the treaty to obtain the two-third’s majority needed for ratification because of Democratic losses in this month’s election… Ratification is in the best interests of the country… Unfortunately, Tennessee’s senators, Republicans Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, appear willing to go along with Kyl.

Toledo Blade:

Led by Sen. John Kyl of Arizona, Senate Republicans, in pursuit of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s agenda to keep Barack Obama a one-term president, have opposed bringing the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty to a vote before the Senate session expires. If they hold to that, they will throw on the fire a carefully designed accord that was the product of years of negotiation… By risking these potential gains in order to frustrate Mr. Obama, Republicans are acting in bad faith with not just Democrats, but the American people.

Nashua Telegraph (NH):

After stringing along the president and congressional Democrats for several months, demanding and getting more money for modernizing the nation’s nuclear weapons facilities, Kyl copped out Tuesday issuing a sanctimoniously vague press release… With so many overpowering arguments supporting the agreement, it doesn’t take a cynic to conclude Kyl’s opposition is motivated by more than concerns over the treaty itself. Giddy over their mid-term election triumphs that will bolster their ranks by six seats, Senate Republicans are drooling over the opportunity to embarrass and undermine President Obama, regardless of what is best for the country… It will be a sad day for America if Republican political greed trumps common sense and national security.

St. Louis Post Dispatch:

Bulletin: The Cold War is over… Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., says he fears there isn’t time to give START II the consideration it deserves. This is the same Jon Kyl who, in July, said he thought the treaty was “relatively benign.”… Failure to ratify START II would leave the United States in a far weaker diplomatic position. Friends and enemies alike would see a nation less concerned about peace than politics. They would not be wrong.

Washington Post:

Rather than take yes for an answer, Mr. Kyl blindsided the administration this week with a statement claiming that not enough time remained this year to ratify the treaty given “the complex and unresolved issues related to START and modernization.” That was hard to credit. But a delay would put the administration’s “reset” of relations with Russia at risk…It might lessen the willingness of nonaligned nations to cooperate with sanctions against Iran and other would-be proliferators… At a time when the country is engaged in two wars and the president has two years left in his term, that’s not an outcome that Republicans should wish for.

The Oregonian:

Richard Lugar is right. Some within the Senate Republican caucus, to which he belongs, are irresponsibly resisting ratification of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty…There’s no reason to block a treaty of which 67 to 73 percent of all Americans approve, according to two recent polls. There’s no reason at all, except to vex an administration that happens to be controlled by Democrats. Here’s hoping the Senate heeds the counsel of wise men like Lugar, and ignores the tactics of people like Kyl.

The Times of Trenton (NJ):

So what is it that Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona knows that all those experts do not? Why is he standing in the way of progress and the vital shoring up of national security that this treaty represents? No good reason seems apparent here. Sen. Kyl, who is front and center in the bloc of GOP opposition to ratification of the treaty, has asked “Why the rush?” We’d like to counter with “Why the delay?”

Times Record of Mid-coast Maine:

Our country’s national security shouldn’t be subject to political gamesmanship. But that’s exactly what’s happening in the U.S. Senate, where the Republican leadership has been using lame excuses to hold up the ratification vote…The silence of our two U.S. senators on this treaty is perplexing, given that both Sen. Olympia Snowe and Sen. Susan Collins have supported earlier arms control agreements negotiated by Republican presidents. We encourage them to speak up for national security and urge their Republican leaders to stop the politicking and ratify this treaty.

San Francisco Chronicle:

Republicans in the Senate are on the verge of a historic and narrow-minded mistake in blocking passage of a treaty to limit nuclear weapons with Russia.

Houston Chronicle:

If you doubted that Republicans could be so craven as to put their own political interests above national security, the proof was delivered Tuesday: Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl announced he will block New START, which calls for the resumption of nuclear controls that until now have had bipartisan support.

Utah’s Deseret News:

This is one vote that shouldn’t hinge on false political perceptions. The one sure tip-off that ratification is important is that leaders of the U.S. military support it and believe it enhances national security. Ratification should be high on the to-do list of the outgoing Senate.

Des Moines Register:

Waiting until the new Congress convenes doesn’t make sense…A delay serves no purpose other than for Republicans to show they can make the president wait. But not moving forward could weaken U.S. relations with the Russian Federation, where the more liberal Medvedev faces an internal power struggle of his own with hard-line Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. That could damage cooperation on containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Bangor Daily News:

The treaty, which needs 67 votes for ratification by the Senate, has gotten tangled up in partisan politics, posturing and pork-barrel negotiations. There is also a group of senators who are opposing the bill in an attempt to get more money for nuclear weapons labs in their states… Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe are crucial to passage of the treaty… Further delaying the treaty is bad for the United States and the world. The Senate should ratify it.

Christian Science Monitor:

Failure to ratify would set back the “reset” in US-Russian relations. It would jeopardize other weapons issues with Russia that need attention (short-range nuclear arms and conventional weapons). It would give Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin one more reason to vilify the West. But the bottom line, and most important consideration, is that without it, the US can’t inspect Russia’s nukes. That’s reason enough to ratify.