After months of quiet negotiations blew up this week, Mr. Obama on Thursday escalated ratification of the agreement, the so-called New Start treaty, into a public showdown, enlisting former Republican officials and assigning Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to work on it “day and night.” An allied group, the American Values Network, kicked off a television and e-mail campaign.
“It is a national security imperative that the United States ratify the New Start treaty this year,” said Mr. Obama, flanked by Henry A. Kissinger, James A. Baker III and Brent Scowcroft, all of whom served Republican presidents. “There is no higher national security priority for the lame-duck session of Congress.”
Like middle-class tax cuts, the START treaty is a no-lose battle for Democrats, and President Obama in particular. As a matter of substance, START is a no-brainer; once in force, the treaty would resume U.S. inspection of Russian nuclear sites and move both nations toward reducing their nuclear stockpiles. START ratification commands strong support from across the national-security and nuclear-proliferation community and is a clear step forward for U.S./Russian relations.
I would like to see Obama take a stronger line against Republican opposition to ratification: "START has support from security experts, military leaders and former diplomats, but Republicans care more about ending my presidency than they do protecting America from nuclear threats." Unlike the Bush/Cheney argument that Democrats are objectively pro-terrorist, this would have the virtue of being true; Republicans are so consumed by their hatred for Obama that they are willing to sacrifice long-term security for short-term political gains. A hard line from Obama would strengthen his image and shine a light on the fundamental unseriousness of the GOP.
-- Jamelle Bouie
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