Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 28, 2010

WHEN ELDER STATESMEN NO LONGER HAVE THEIR PHONE CALLS RETURNED.... A couple of weeks ago, President Obama, commenting at the White House on the pending arms control treaty with Russia, noted, "It is a national security imperative that the United States ratify the New Start treaty this year. There is no higher national security priority for the lame-duck session of Congress."

More interesting than the comments, though, were the three men flanking the president at the time: Brent Scowcroft, James Baker, and Henry Kissinger, all veterans of modern Republican presidents, and members in good standing of Republican Foreign Policy Elder Statesmen, at least by the standards of the Republican establishment.

The point Obama and his team wanted to emphasize, of course, is that this treaty enjoys broad bipartisan support, just so long as one overlooks the Senate Republican caucus. It didn't matter; the GOP votes that count are the ones that refuse to even consider the consequences of their conduct.

There was a time, not too long ago, that the political world would look to these proxies as evidence of merit. If Lugar, Scowcroft, Kissinger, James Baker, Reagan Secretary of State George Schultz, Reagan Chief of Staff Kenneth Duberstein, Reagan Chief of Staff Howard Baker, and Colin Powell endorsed a treaty related to national security -- and all of these Republicans have urged ratification of New START -- it stood to reason that the measure would enjoy enthusiastic Republican backing. When six former secretaries of state and five former secretaries of defense from both parties; the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; seven former Strategic Command chiefs; national security advisers from both parties; and nearly all former commanders of U.S. nuclear forces were all on the same page -- as they are now on New START -- the proposal on the table would fairly be described as a "no-brainer."

But that was before. Before what, exactly? Well, before the contemporary Republican Party became the contemporary Republican Party. Now, figures are left to search in vain for someone GOP senators might actually listen to.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who has reserved judgment on how she will vote until the resolution comes to the floor, said it could make a difference if Obama could get George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, both former presidents, to appear with him in support of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START. [...]

"It would be wonderful if President [George H.W.] Bush would come out for the treaty. That would be so powerful and definitely help," Collins said in a telephone interview last week.

Really? All of these other Bush administration officials endorsing the treaty isn't quite enough to send a signal about the measure's merit?

Jacob Heilbrun recently explained that the GOP's handling of this debate offers us a chance to watch "the decline and fall of the Republican foreign-policy establishment." Ordinarily, sentences that include "Republican," "establishment," and "fall" might sound like an encouraging development, but in this case, it's really not -- the old-guard GOP foreign-policy establishment were the only folks left in the party still in touch with reality.

Their judgment is hardly unimpeachable -- cough, Iraq war, cough -- but they nevertheless offered at least some reasonable pushback to neoconservatism and the blind, knee-jerk partisanship that dominates Republican Party thinking.

Their influence, however, has disappeared. Republican policymakers are aware of the foreign policy old guard, but they prefer to ignore its members. It's an important development in the growing immaturity of GOP politics in the 21st century.

Steve Benen 2:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (44)

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Well Issa (twice arrested for car theft) will be busy with his ethics investigations, McCain will be busy trying to stop the repeal of DADT (today he said it was just an inexperienced candidate making good on a campaign promise)Lindsay Graham says DADT won't be repealed (this from a closet gay) and Boehner and McConnell will be urging the administration to borrow trillions for tax cuts for the top 2%. They will all be fighting the extension of unemployment benefits.What a depressing world!

Posted by: js on November 28, 2010 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

Fugettabout all those fossils! What we need is a START endorsement from a REAL foreign policy expert: Sarah I-can-see-Russia-from-my-house-Palin.

-That will stiffen the spines (snort, chuckle) of all those Republican Senators.

Posted by: DAY on November 28, 2010 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

Their judgment is hardly unimpeachable -- cough, Iraq war, cough --

Cough, cough bombing Cambodia, overthrowing Allende, the Contras, Ollie North, war crimes. And that's just Kissinger

Posted by: martin on November 28, 2010 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

I'm betting they will get H. W. Bush to sign on, but not George W.

Somehow, I doubt he gives a rats ass.

Posted by: Mark-NC on November 28, 2010 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

"offers us a chance to watch "the decline and fall of the Republican foreign-policy establishment.""

No, what we're really watching is the decline and fall of the United States of America.

Posted by: SaintZak on November 28, 2010 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

Colliins is a phony - is she really holding out for the father and brother of a guy who has been touted by none other than David Gergen as the last, best hope of the GOP's political fortunes to salvage Obama's national security policies with the GOPer beltway pols ? This is the same bullshit these crones from Maine played during the health insurance reform debate - if GHWB does sign on (which I doubt - he sends Scowcroft when he's too chickenshit or lazy to interrupt fishing, golf or mollifying Babs) Collins or her twin will ask "Where's Condi?" If Condi signs on, which isn't likely or she'd already be standing on that dais, they'll want assurances from Dick Cheney - or maybe Liz. It's all a game - the height of irresponsible narcissism, marketed as "moderation." I'd love to see them - at the least - have to go through the Agony of Murkowski in order to hang on to their seats.

Posted by: brucds on November 28, 2010 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

It must be a religious thing. What else can explain it?

Posted by: Goldilocks on November 28, 2010 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

crucds is right. If both the Bushes came forward, Collins would want them to ask Zombie Reagan next. She and her ilk are always moving the goalposts.

Posted by: Bat of Moon on November 28, 2010 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

"-- cough, Iraq war, cough --"

I detest HK and have never forgive Powell for his cowardly UN theatrics in support of W, but "in fairness" Scowcroft was a stronger voice against the Iraq invasion than most nominal Dems at the top of the foreign policy elite -- cough, Richard Holbrooke, Hillary Clinton, cough.

Posted by: brucds on November 28, 2010 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

Don't worry, it's not just decline and fall of foreign policy....did you catch David Strockman on Fareed
Zackzria's GPS?

Posted by: golack on November 28, 2010 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Martin and brucds are both right.

Posted by: Jvallen on November 28, 2010 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

The repudiation of the old-guard establishment Rethug war mongers is to be expected from the children now running the GOP. They evidently listen only to god, Sarah Palin, and Glen Beck, in more-or-less that order. Oh, and they don't want to give Obama a foreign policy victory.

Demolishing Obama is their only priority even if the world becomes a more dangerous place. Just as it doesn't matter if the hordes of unemployed get cut off from unemployment insurance, health care goes back to complete control by the insurers, and the banksters foreclose on the rest of the underwater mortgages. None of this will change even when these infants reclaim the WH, and install what they consider a 'legitimate government'.

Our government is soon to be controlled by unruly children who only want to eat candy and ice cream no matter how sick it makes them. The problem is it's going to make the rest of sick too.

Posted by: rrk1 on November 28, 2010 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

"That would be so powerful and definitely help," - Collins

Because I (Collins) am not a leader and need a shield. Enjoy being a tool with benefits? Didn't have your bowl of fiber this morning?

How does this 'everybody else has to be onboard before I'll consider reading it' for the greater good work anyway?

Posted by: Kevin (not the famous one) on November 28, 2010 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

Why rely on the expertise of elder statesmen, when you have teabaggers who will determine the nuclear intentions of the foundng fathers?

Posted by: JoeW on November 28, 2010 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

Now that the inmates are running the asylum, this is gonna be a whole lot of fun.

Posted by: Jamie on November 28, 2010 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

Saint Zack said it: "No, what we're really watching is the decline and fall of the United States of America."
These malicious fuckers are determined to destroy America. By the time they finish their treasonous behavior and succeed in crippling the Obama administration and the country, there will be nothing left to govern . It will probably suit them just fine - mission accomplished.

Posted by: John R on November 28, 2010 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder how many of our new GOP congress critters are counting on the rapture happening in the near future

Posted by: Jamie on November 28, 2010 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

Everybody knows if you want someone with real foreign policy bonafides you have to get Joe the Plumber on your side.

Posted by: Winkandanod on November 28, 2010 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

Because I (Collins) am not a leader and need a shield.

Strip away everything else, and that's the meat of this post to me: A sitting US Senator is openly declaring that she's too dumb to decide on the merits of an important issue. As one who believes the average intelligence of the US Senate is probably lower than the national average, I still find it surprising that she doesn't get that she's saying this. Of course, the only interesting thing I"ve ever heard about Senator Alice Ghostly is that she's living, walking proof that one can, in fact, screw one's brains out.

Posted by: Jim on November 28, 2010 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

Collins is pathetic. No one in their right mind thinks that either of the former President Bushes has any special expertise in this area (least of all GWB). The elder Bush was wise in his choice of advisors and listened to them--most of those have already publicly endorsed the Treaty.

If Collins believes that ratification of the Treaty is in the best interests of the country, she should vote for it. There are enough experts from prior administrations who have endorsed this to set her mind at ease about the merits. If she doesn't believe ratification is, on the merits, a good idea, then what difference would it make to her that either former President publicly endorsed it?

This is nothing more than a window into her moral cowardice.

Posted by: DRF on November 28, 2010 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

Ronny Raygun, Tricky Dick, + Barry Goldwater could come back from the dead to endorse START ratification, + Kyl et al would only accuse them of being RINOs and stick w/his anti-START position.


Posted by: Zorro on November 28, 2010 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

It is highly unlikely that anyone who wants to use the nukes would support this treaty.
In the words of "elder statesman" McCain
Bomb, bomb, bomb,
Bomb, bomb Iran!

I know it seems nuts. You know it seems nuts.
That's because it is nuts!
Some of these people recently elected to positions of power genuinely believe that they can cause Armageddon and come through it unscathed.

Posted by: thebewilderness on November 28, 2010 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

I can't tell whether they want to destroy America because they want to destroy everything on the road to global chaos and Armageddon, or whether they want to destroy "America" along with its minimal protections for workers in order to extend global serfdom further to serve the profits of international capital. Can anyone enlighten me?

Posted by: rabbit on November 28, 2010 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

In the WaPo story referred to:
"[L]ast week ]Kyl] circulated a memo asking for guarantees that future presidents and congresses will allocate funds for upgrades of nuclear weapons facilities, something administration officials say cannot be done."
It can't be done and Kyl knows it can't be done. Why is he raising this bs issue?

Posted by: jonrysh on November 28, 2010 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

The constitution is pretty damn clear. It gives the senate to power to vote on treaties. It does not ask/ require that senators seek other approval. It is one of the clearly defined jobs for senators.

and to follow up on jonrysh - i think there is some smoke here - kyl wants some sort of pseuo promise from presidents yet to be elected on spending? Bullshit. All spending originates in the House, then approved by the senate. 2/3 of each would override any veto - - he is looking for more excuses.

Posted by: bigtuna on November 28, 2010 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

Now, figures left to search in vain for someone GOP senators might actually listen to.

What does this gibberish mean?

Posted by: josef on November 28, 2010 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

"or whether they want to destroy "America" along with its minimal protections for workers in order to extend global serfdom further to serve the profits of international capital. Can anyone enlighten me?"

Rushdoony wanted a world of small, sovereign communities governed by the godly. He's a big influence on the right, providing a link between corporatists and the church folk.

Posted by: Seould on November 28, 2010 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

Looking at some the cables being leaked from the state dept these people care nothing about the constituents and speak very little truth.

Posted by: Kill Bill on November 28, 2010 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

I just hope that my theory proves correct. The GOP's craziness has worked so well in the past that now they have decided to play "chicken" with the electorate. Maybe, after things get really bad, the GOP will go into the dustbin of history where it belongs with the Whigs, etc.

Posted by: Leroy Dumonde on November 28, 2010 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

The modern US right wants nothing less than World War III, on the assumption that the rest of the world hates us, and that they will kill us if we don't kill them first.

Posted by: dr sardonicus on November 28, 2010 at 7:45 PM | PERMALINK


Posted by: Steve Paradis on November 28, 2010 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

Got to seriously disagree with this post Steve. Scowcroft is hardly a trustworthy leader, go back and review his statements before the Iraq invasion. Baker, 43's lawyer-in-chief for the Bush Gore Supreme Court fiasco. And Kissinger? He's lucky he hasn't been deported for War Crimes. Just because the idiots on the right aren't rooting for Obama is no time for you to start rooting for their leftovers.

Posted by: Paul on November 28, 2010 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, grotesque of the new "how base of them" Republicans.

BTW Steve, you should revisit the issue of Wikileaks since they might really cause trouble in a rather objective sense. It's data, but a sort of intellectual property. Dumping that stuff out (but note blottings of names etc, they do seem to care about protecting individuals) is not far from fencing stolen intellectual or other property, and it could make things so difficult for the US in general, START, relations with Russia, China, Pakistan, Arabia, Israel, etc. Sometimes revelations are in the public interest, but like jury nullification it's a special cautious decision to make when pushed. Time for the "left" to reassess reflexive sympathy such as it is for raiders of government secrets.


Posted by: neil b on November 28, 2010 at 8:40 PM | PERMALINK

"It would be wonderful if President [George H.W.] Bush would come out for the treaty. That would be so powerful and definitely help," Collins said in a telephone interview last week.

This is only a hair shy of declaring that the only valid treaties are those negotiated by Republican presidents. That Sen. Collins insists that a legally elected executive defer to his predecessor is tantamount to a call for negation of any act of a non-Republican administration.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on November 28, 2010 at 9:22 PM | PERMALINK

Not ONE of these republicans wanted GWB or Dad to campaign with them. And NOW they want Obama to stand with them to give the treaty authenticity? Screw you Ms. Collins. You just want to embarrass the President. Grow up and start working for the COUNTRY.

Posted by: SYSPROG on November 28, 2010 at 9:53 PM | PERMALINK
Because of what appears to have been a computer glitch, a group of nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) was temporarily off-line last week and not ready to launch on a moment’s notice. According to an article in The Atlantic, some Republicans have suggested that this means that New START, the nuclear arms control treaty awaiting Senate ratification, is unwise and should be rejected. This assertion is nonsense but is a useful illustration of how much of current nuclear “thinking” is just a holdover from now irrelevant Cold War doctrine. http://www.fas.org/blog/ssp/2010/10/nonsense-about-new-start-and-icbms.php
Posted by: Kill Bill on November 28, 2010 at 9:57 PM | PERMALINK

In the lame duck session, there are 58 Dems, 42 Repubs

Assuming all 58 Dems vote aye, this is the pool of possible Repub votes as I see:

Collins, Snowe (ME)
Gregg (NH)
Brown (MA)
Voinovich (OH)
Lugar (IN)
Martinez (FL)
Kirk (IL)
Murkowski (AK)
Bennett (UT)
Grassley (IO)
Hutchinson (TX)

That's 12, some of which are quite a stretch. Four of them are retiring, which might help. Two others are in for six years and will have plenty of other chances to prove their bona fides. Nine are needed.

Lindsay Graham is scared out of his mind about renomination, but he'll lose anyway.

Posted by: hopeless pedant on November 28, 2010 at 9:57 PM | PERMALINK

Where are the people of Arizona in all this? Maybe Tucson etc are such hellholes that the people there would just as soon be melted to oblivion by a loose nuke as not. I'm not saying Arizona is a hellhole, but it is something that you hear a lot.

Or what? Do the people of Arizona just, at the end of the day, not give a rat's ass about the United States of America or anything it stands for. They've been a state for less than a hundred years, maybe they're not fully integrated yet?

Posted by: herostratus on November 28, 2010 at 10:32 PM | PERMALINK

That didn't represent the Republican foreign policy establishment, they are the first beheading victims when Taliban Madame DeFarge attains power.

We kept the Republic for 221 years, not a bad run, Ben Franklin would be proud of the first 200 or so.

Posted by: LosGatosCA on November 29, 2010 at 12:18 AM | PERMALINK

I once read that both Reagan and Bush 41 marginalized Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, keeping these leaders of the crackpot wing of the Republican at arms length. And during this same time, between 1980 and 1992, George W. Bush was still a drunken sot, passing out in his own piss while not pissing on others.

Then, George W. Bush supposedly sobered-up, got elected governor of Texas, then president, bringing with him into his administration Cheney and Rumsfeld, along with a whole lot of other members of the crackpot, warmongering, nation-destroying, Grover Norquist-worshiping wing of the Republican Party.

That's what we are seeing now.

And Bush 41 and Bush 43 don't want to be seen as picking sides, yet by their silence they are indicating that they prefer the newbie radical Republicans over the Old Guard Republicans, those Old Guard pragmatic Republicans who often used to put our country over partisan politics, who are now pitted against newbie radical Republicans who are partisan all the time 24/7, and to hell with what is best for our country.

Note. Has Cheney or Rumsfeld come out in favor the new START treaty? I rest my case. They are being as silent as Bush 41 and Bush 43, and damn the consequences...just as long as the "new" Republican Party (and their crackpot conservative wing) gain more power, more money, more power, more money, bwahahahahaha.

And besides there's an interloper in the White House, a black man, so the racist Republicans can't be seen as being "weak." Otherwise, how will they keep their Tea Party base?

Posted by: The Oracle on November 29, 2010 at 2:24 AM | PERMALINK

Kill Bill, ironically it's all the more important to expand on START because of the disastrous consequences of an accident with so many warheads. But the neorebaglicans work off intuitions, the simple feel of the situation - analysis (even of the simple, basic kind) is a sissy indulgence.

Posted by: neil b on November 29, 2010 at 7:42 AM | PERMALINK

This is more an internal GOP matter anyway. Despite the label on his lapel, Obama has Bu$h Administration staff. You figure it out.
Reading a Twitter from Booman I sent him this - which is better than anything I have put together.

Posted by: opit on November 29, 2010 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

And check Krauthammer's latest pile - ironically for a conservative, saying who cares how many missiles Russia has since now inconceivable they'd launch an attack on us. !!! Hey, I thought you guys were still suspicious of Russia, and you know that things could change. And, wouldn't we be safer in case of accident etc. with many fewer warheads each?

Posted by: neil b on November 29, 2010 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

Posted by: Steve Paradis on November 28, 2010

Would Collins even be satisfied with "standards" this high?

Posted by: Johnny Canuck on November 29, 2010 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK



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