Are Republican senators providing aid and comfort to the Russian military? When I read his column in the morning paper, I assumed my old pal, David Broder, had gotten it wrong. Dave's been covering American politics at the highest level since the days of Rutherford Hayes, but I presumed that he misread, misheard, or otherwise reached an erroneous conclusion that the answer to this question is: Yes.
The Republicans could not be that stupid, I thought. But I did some checking, and discovered Dave is right. Intent on obstructing anything that President Obama proposes, the Senate Republicans--with a few exceptions--are blocking a crucial nuclear arms treaty that would allow the U.S. military to continue to make on-site inspections of Russia's nuclear arsenal. The information that we get from those inspections gives U.S. intelligence a wealth of data, and the Pentagon a solid base on which to make decisions about the Russian nuclear threat and the means and costs of assuring our own safety.
But because of the Republican tactics, the old START agreement--which was endorsed by Republican and Democratic administrations in the years since the Cold War ended--has expired. So, for the first time in 15 years the Pentagon has lost its ability to inspect the Russian strategic nuclear bases.
Sen. Richard Lugar, the Republican from Indiana who studies this stuff (and probably deserves a Nobel Prize for his relentless efforts to reduce the threat of loose nukes and other weapons of mass destruction), told the Washington Post that the delay in adopting a new treaty "is very serious and impacts our national security."
Yet when Post reporter Mary Beth Sheridan asked Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the deputy Republican leader and one of the organizers of obstruction, why he and other members of his party were so willing to sacrifice such an important American advantage, Kyl told her that he thought the inspections were continuing.
Wow. I guess we can give Kyl credit for candor. And I suppose that some would think it worse if Kyl recognized he was helping the Russians hide what they've got, and was still cynically blocking the treaty for partisan political purposes. But the ignorance of his answer stuns me. Even in the Senate, where the idiot sons of the rich (as Tip O'Neill once called them) get spoon fed talking points by their huge staffs, a man should have a basic understanding of the actions he is taking. Especially when it involves nuclear weapons and national security.
I gotta agree with Broder, who wrote: "What a price to pay for ignorance."