Josh Rogin reports that Rose Goettemoeller’s negotiating team came up with a way to craft the nuke-reduction treaty with Russia without offending GOP sensitivities to missile defense. “Missile defense will not be part of the treaty,” Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the last Republican arms-controller, told Josh, “but in the preamble both parties will state their positions and there will be a mention of offense and defense and the importance of those.” Elegant, right? Everyone’s needs are respected. Onward to 67 Senate votes and adoption of the treaty, right?

“That’s still not going to be acceptable to a lot of senators,” said one senior GOP senate aide close to the issue, reacting to Lugar’s comments. “How do senators know that’s not going to be used against a future administration by the Russians?”

Expect to see every Obama-administration witness who trudges to the Hill attempt to answer the question. And then expect anyone who asks it to remain unpersuaded. If verification is an issue, well, in 2003, the Senate overwhelmingly approved a treaty negotiated between George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin that had no verification mechanisms at all. (Mitch McConnell didn’t vote.)

It would be a mistake to view the outcome of this vote as a function of the treaty’s merits. Look at it from the GOP’s political vantage. It’s an opportunity to deal Obama’s hippie aspiration for a nuke-free world an embarrassing setback, right after suffering a humiliating defeat on health care, the issue that fight most to their voters. Every Republican interest inclines them against voting for the bill, and the constitutional math of treaty ratification gives them the chance to give Obama a bloody nose in front of the world. If the Obama team starts arguing the merits of the bill as opposed to outlining a raw-politics strategy for passage, then the treaty is fucked.

Watch John Bolton oppose ratification when he speaks to the Heritage Foundation on Obama’s vicious betrayal of American sovereignty on Tuesday. That’s going to set the tone for this debate.

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman

3 Comments