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The Incredible Shrinking Dick Lugar

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Time was that when the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee declared it imperative to ratify a given treaty — any treaty — senators on both sides of the aisle would take heed.

But, then, time also was that politics was supposed to end at the waters’ edge, too.

Apparently, both are equally quaint notions.

As I write this, Sen. Dick Lugar has a headline blasting on his Senate website reading, “Breaking Video: Lugar Demands New START,” referring to the hoped-for passage of a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

Except no one seems to notice, or care.

The counsel of this Indiana Republican — a former chairman of the Foreign Relations panel so distinguished that his name is virtually synonymous with much of the major disarmament work of the last two decades or more — is being turned aside.

Instead, all eyes are on Jon Kyl, a Republican senator with no formal foreign-policy expertise and whose career registers just a fraction of that which Lugar could boast. (If Lugar was the sort to boast, which he is not.)

What Kyl is, however, is a wily and cunning politician eager to strike against this treaty on what appears largely partisan grounds.

There’s no disagreement on the substance of the treaty, which pretty much falls in line with previous disarmament agreements with Russia championed by Republican presidents of the past.

Although the White House has publicly assured Kyl it would address whatever technical concerns he may have, the Arizona conservative has not budged.

No, it’s become increasingly clear that Kyl simply wants to hurt President Obama.

Obama, after all, is the Nobel laureate for whom nuclear disarmament is a signature issue. How better for Kyl to ingratiate himself with the right-wing hordes who appear ascendant for the moment than to deny the president such an acheivement.

Such partisanship is a disgrace for so many reasons, but none more so than the dishonor it imparts upon Lugar, who has made a career of being tough-but-serious about foreign affairs in the interest of the country he loves.

The fact that Lugar is demanding the Senate approve the new START, and do so during the current lame-duck session, appears meaningless.

The only reason this could be is that his fellow Republicans have decided that Lugar suffers from “Crist’s disease,” that being the ailment first seen in outgoing Florida governor Charlie Crist. Like Crist, Lugar dared nothing more than to show Barack Obama some friendship and kindness — and allow his photo to be taken with Obama while still having a smile on his face.

This is an ignominous end for a great American statesman who, one might recall, very nearly was the running mate to conservative godfather Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Meanwhile, the demands of some incoming GOP senators that the new START vote be delayed until they’re sworn in only adds to the Republican shame.

Steve Clemons, one of the most respected and bipartisan foreign-affairs scholars at work in Washington today, is blasting these newcomers.

“That’s right.  Even the so-called strict constitutionalist Rand Paul is engaged in lobbying that would impose illegal burdens on incumbent elected representatives violating the word and spirit of the United States Constitution,” he says.

It is a sad day when Republicans who claim so loudly to love the Constitution show how truly ignorant of it they really are.


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About Scott Nance

  • Uh, let’s make that “both sides of the aisle”

  • Ya know, it’s not like the treaty was just now dropped at Kyle’s door. This treaty has undergone literally dozens of committee investigations over the past several months. As far as I’ve heard, there was nothing new, all of the points, all of the language had been hashed out long before Obama’s trip. According to Obama, he and Kyle had had a # of conversations about this treaty and Obama stated that all of Kyle’s concerns had been addressed.

    Lugar is spot on. Lugar has always been respected by both aisle’s of Congress and by most other Beltway politicos. Some of the Reps must feel that politics trump national security, and throwing Lugar under the bus is okay since the tea party idiots have targeted him because he doesn’t pass their purity test.

    There is absolutely no legitimate reason for Kyle to suddenly, out of the blue, put a stop to this treaty. The ONLY reason is to once again thwart Obama. It is a means to discredit him both nationally and on the international stage. It is Republican politics at its worst which has become de regueur for all the good GOP troops.

    I don’t believe there has ever been a more nakedly, virulent politics in our history except possibly the years following the Civil War. The self-righteous Right has signed onto the notion that their ends justify any means. Republicans have nothing to offer except their intent to get rid of Obama. The just completed mid-term elections that the Reps are hooting about are a testament to their success – their success at basing virtually ALL of the various campaigns on lies about the President, about health care, about Pelosi, yada, yada, yada… Yes, the Reps won the House. The gullible, tea drinking, uninformed masses have spoken.

    Kyle’s actions are simply an extension of those campaigns. Having successfully established an impenetrable circle of undeniability, they can now say anything, no matter how false or outrageous, about Obama or the Dems, and it will be believed. Yes, the Reps are sitting in the catbird seat. That is it propped up by lie on lie, it just may fall of its own lack of substance.

    Frankly, I don’t know how any of you rightys can look at yourselves in the mirror and not hurl chunks at the image.


  • Clavos

    it’s also at the mercy of nitpicking.


  • Two words can explain this complicated issue. Are you ready for it…. conservative demagoguery.

  • zingzing

    “your credibility is at stake.”

    oh lawd. it’s also at the mercy of nitpicking.

  • Glenn Contrarian


    Sorry, Clavos – my screw-up. It’s to Cannonshop reply #18 that my reply #20 applies. This isn’t the first time I got the names mixed up and it won’t be the last.

  • Clavos


    I have repeatedly mentioned your frequent lack of reading comprehension. I have no idea why you address your #20 to me, since I had nothing whatever to say about the military’s reaction to the START treaty — I haven’t even discussed it. In fact,my ONLY comment in this entire thread was #19, in which I commented on what I believed to be your rank in the Navy — NOTHING ELSE.

    You really should pay better attention,Glenn, your credibility is at stake.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Again – do you REALLY think that a flag officer will speak out ENTHUSIASTICALLY for something that he thinks will significantly harm the security of the United States?

    Do you?

    FYI, sir, the example of General McChrystal is a great example. Why? Because he was NOT court-martialed, was he? He was allowed to RETIRE. He had the option to follow the path of the 20+ flag officers who decided to retire and THEN speak out against the Iraq war.

    But our military flag officers and our CIA/NSA bigwigs didn’t stay silent on the START treaty, did they? They didn’t decide to retire and THEN speak out, did they? They didn’t give lukewarm support (a common tactic of signaling a lack of support), did they? They gave ENTHUSIASTIC support.

    Clavos, you’re telling me I have a ‘remarkable absence of awareness of the UCMJ’. You, sir, don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. Dan (Miller) knows a lot more than I do and has schooled me on it before…but I do know two things:

    (1) Flag officers who don’t like what the administration does particularly when they think what the administration is doing will harm American national security can avoid the UCMJ altogether and CHOOSE to retire and THEN speak out, as demonstrated above. They DO, this, Clavos, because they have NO worries about making a living. A flag officer with 30 years experience will retire with 75% of his pay (with some small adjustments)…and WILL get a job paying far more in the civilian sector.

    (2) Most senior military personnel who have been around the block will tell you that there are ways to speak out against a policy or – if given no other option – to give lukewarm support at best. It is very, very difficult to FORCE a flag officer to give enthusiastic support for something he doesn’t like – he knows how to get around it and to make his displeasure known. In case you didn’t know it, Clavos, it’s VERY difficult to bring a flag officer up on charges before the UCMJ…and just about any career military person can cite a few instances of acts by flag officers that richly deserved a court-martial but were quietly swept under the rug or were ignored by the higher commands/administration/press until the issue died on the vine.

    Who, Clavos, is really naive here? You’re the one who’s apparently thinking that these men and women – the most powerful in the military and in the CIA/NSA – would voluntarily voice support unanimous support for something they strongly feel would harm America’s national security.

    Why do you feel this way? Because You Just Know It…and nobody can tell you any different.

  • Clavos

    For a former Naval Officer, Glenn…

    Actually, I believe he was an NCO.

  • Cannonshop

    #16 McChrystal was an interesting case, there’s more to what went on with him than is likely ever going to make the public record (at least, make it in the next fifty years or so.)

    His case was really very interesting when you look at his activities PRIOR to embarassing the elected scum. He wanted to bring in PAVE/COIN type aircraft to provide real-time support, for instance-something that always seems to chave the zoomies in the Air Force (same zoomies who relegated the A-10 to an ‘observer’ role when they couldn’t kill it, or prove it less effective than booming along at mach dropping bombs from 30K feet on guesswork).

    He was often critical of the Brassholes in the Pentagone, too-and it was his mouth that got him fired, but he WAS a fighting general-which is something of a rarity in the land of Careers in Green and Brass (aka the brotherhood of the Legion of Merit).

    It doesn’t mean opening his mouth was the smart thing to do for his career-but then, that’s codified in the UCMJ, there’s nothing to be done about it except change the laws-at least they let him keep his pension…

    which brings us to #17…

    Glenn, I’m not going to run down ratholes with you over the cult of Global Warming or the Birthers-one is a matter for debate among scientists, and the other is something of a distraction that was cooked up by a political dirty-tricks-squad to distract the voters with a goofy straw-man.

    And I didn’t say they were against it, Glenn. I said they’re required to publicly support it, or at minimum not criticize it.

    UCMJ Article 88. “…any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President or Vice President, Congress, Secretary of Defense…shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”

    Most of the military establishment dealing with START is stationed…where?


    For a former Naval Officer, Glenn, you demonstrate a remarkable absence of awareness of the Uniform Code of Military Justice! (McChrystal was relieved and forced to retire, likely under this article.)

    The charge is called(For completeness sake) “Contempt for Officials”.

    What it means is, if you’re in uniform, you’re not legally permitted to PUBLICLY criticize START-because it is a POLICY matter, and the Military has these regulations to keep it “APolitical” (meaning “Without Politics”).

    You’ve also missed my point-the treaty could be the best thing that ever happened in all the world, or it can be a disaster, but relying on endorsement from the uniformed services is a no-go, because they’re:

    1. Forbidden by Law to criticize the actions, policies or person of the President or other Civilian Officials.

    2. People-and as Americans, likely to have as many opinions as you can find on the Internet-certainly sufficient number of people with sufficient number of opinions that, while not permitted to criticize, there is no restriction on endorsement of policy-publicly.

    Which means that it’s REAL easy to make any policy, no matter WHAT it is, sound like it has overwhelming support in the military, so long as the President endorses said policy.

    No doubt similar regulations apply in other security services. (Notably, your straw-man about torture lacks any NAMED officers or officials-they’re not stupid enough to put their jobs on the line in such a manner.)

  • Glenn Contrarian

    C-shop –

    So let me get this straight – you believe that the military and the national security agencies are voicing enthusiastic support for the START treaty only because they’re required to…and that in reality they’re against it…and your proof?

    Because You Just Know It! That’s why!

    That’s the reasoning behind so many conservative positions. Global warming is a hoax Because They Just Know It! Obama’s a Kenyan and a Muslim Because They Just Know It! LGBT’s are bad bad bad people and shouldn’t have rights like everyone else Because They Just Know It! All Muslims are terrorists or terrorist sympathizers Because They Just Know It!

    P.S. I guess the military and the security agency personnel who spoke out against torture were all lying, too, huh?

  • Baronius

    Cannon, I don’t think that the resignation of military officers is ever likely to get media attention, because most of them aren’t well-known. A general could be retiring because of his age or health, or pursuing a position with a defense contractor, or covering up an embarrassment. Some people even retire to spend more time with their families, although nowhere near as many as claim to be retiring for that reason. Casual observers just don’t know.

    Also, they don’t typically retire loudly. I think you could argue that General McChrystal did, but he was an exception.

  • Cannonshop

    #14 for the majority of people, Roger, they DO. The reason Ethical Behaviour is worth so much, is that few people are willing to act ethically when they can either gain an advantage, or retain a current status, by acting against their stated beliefs. Examples are everything from the Environmentalist who drives a car (even when walking would be easily possible) to the Congressman who sits on Ways and Means then cheats on his taxes, to the guy bitching about “americans losing their jobs” while buying chinese at wal-Mart or Costco, to the cop who speeds when he’s off-duty or has a little drinking problem and the keys to his car.

    Hypocrisy is widespread in every aspect of our society, and when you’re talking about a career in the Military that’s reached twenty years or so with a significant investment and few prospects on civvie street, the condition of the Economy can well indeed make a man who’s got a mortgage, or kids in college, decide that toeing the party-line is more important than self-destruction to make a point that will likely be ignored.

    Especially if it’s likely to be ignored-as any resignations on principle would be in the current political and media climate.

  • Cannon’s argument seems to be that the current economic conditions stand in the way of acting on the principle.

  • Cannon: Nevertheless, you’d expect at least one or two. I merely asked if anybody knew. The answer would be germane to the discussion.

  • Cannonshop

    #11 Unlike the 90’s the economy is stagnant and cost to live is rising (and officers, even flag-grade, don’t make that much). Resignations are significantly less likely under today’s conditions than they were in, say, 1992 or 1996, or 2002.

    #10 How so, Glenn? If you want to keep the uniform, you don’t criticize the President or his policies in public-that’s an article 92 offense. START is popular (as is any arms reduction) with the press, so they’re going to find people who enthusiastically support it, and are unlikely to talk to or quote people who aren’t going to be enthusiastic-that’s the nature of the infotainment news-like product we get these days.


    #9 You’re allowed an opinion, but you’re not allowed to say anything in public that might undermine the commander-in-chief-that is, you’re not allowed to publicly criticize the president, OR his policies if you’re in the Military. Look it up, it’s in the UCMJ.

    #8 When duty comes at cross-purposes to honour, you have to choose one. Some will choose Duty, others Honour. It’s a matter of which direction you choose. If you can’t in good conscience support your CoC, you leave.

    Finally: START is pretty easy to verify in the U.S.-we have (for now) an intact chain of command and intact chains of responsibility. How verifiable is it with, say, Russia in the condition they’re in (and have been in the last two decades)?

    I submit to thee, that even with 24/7 Keyhole Sattellite coverage, Russia’s too big and too disorganized to have any kind of certainty.

    Second, is that all this support-can you specify which portions of the actual TREATY you support the most? which parts of it work BEST? or is this another case of “Widespread Support” of something nobody knows what’s in it? Will it have to be approved by Congress before we get the full text, know the mechanisms, or even the specific language of its provisions?

    What are the requirements for compliance, how much will compliance cost? How is Compliance verified? what penalties exist for violations? How are violations defined?
    How will disagreements about whether or not a violation occur be handled?
    Are there Inspection regimes implemented? how much will THEY cost?

    If it hasn’t been ratified, there is usually a reason-we have a “Lame duck” senate with a 60% partisan supermajority, if there aren’t problems with this treaty, why won’t Democratic Senators support it?

    There are REASONS-regardless of what the Executive says, for the Senate to refuse to support a treaty nominally in line with their politics. Perhaps an examination of what those reasons might be should be pursued by anyone seeking to support this treaty-if only to demolish objections?

    Argument-by-Bandwagon just doesn’t work in national security matters (or economic matters, or health-care…) Nor does argument-by-authority-figure.

  • Have any flag officers gone on record as resigning or retiring because they don’t support the START treaty?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    C-shop –

    I think you shot down your own position – because as you said in so many words, flag officers who don’t agree don’t have to be enthusiastic. They can always be quiet or at best lukewarm…or they can resign.

    Thanks for proving my point!

  • zingzing

    and: “Considering that the Military establishment is required to support anything the President supports…” is bullshit. they’re allowed to have opinions.

  • zingzing

    and if a man doesn’t believe in his oath, he shouldn’t be in command either, cannonshop.

  • Cannonshop

    Glenn, do you remember the score or so who quit after Bill Clinton was elected, because they couldn’t criticize him and remain within their oaths?

    (as for officers quitting because they might be forced to command in a shooting war, that’s good-if the man doesn’t believe in the fight, he shouldn’t be in command. DUH.)

  • Glenn Contrarian

    C-shop –

    Do you remember the score or so of flag officers who retired rather than accept the job of commanding the Iraq war? Remember the retired flag officers who strongly spoke out against the war? I do.

    If they didn’t support the START treaty, active-duty flag military officers would either stay silent as the grave or their statements of support would be lukewarm at best…and they certainly wouldn’t come out enthusiastically supporting something they thought would be harmful to the military.

  • Cannonshop

    #4 Considering that the Military establishment is required to support anything the President supports (OR, at least, not OPPOSE anything the President supports, regardless of who the president is…) Their support is a non-issue. As for NSA/CIA?

    Well… I’d LOVE to think the NSA or CIA weren’t pretty much in the same position of having to openly support (or at least, not oppose) what the Executive is in favour of, but I don’t think that’s the case-they’re both controlled by the Executive Branch, both require the support of POTUS to do their jobs, and neither have much carry-over at the top levels between administrations unless said administrations happen to be of hte same Party.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius –

    I support it because both the president AND the military AND the national security sectors support it.

    Of course, all that’s not good enough for the Republicans who obviously know better than the military or the NSA/CIA about what’s best for America’s security.

  • Baronius

    Scott, you talk about the naked partisanship, but you don’t talk about the actual treaty. Shouldn’t this be about the treaty? Have you given us any reason to support the treaty other than who is on which side? That’s naked partisanship. I don’t know if the Republicans are opposing it because the President supports it, but it’s clear that you support it because the Republicans oppose it.

    In fact, your only analysis of it is that it’s “pretty much” like previous treaties. How so? In its reduction of weapons, or of platforms? I consider Richard Lugar to be a serious person, but I’d say the same thing about John Bolton, and he opposes the treaty. That gives me pause.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    What I want to know is why the Republicans are so opposed to the START treaty when it has overwhelming support among both U.S. military leadership and the national security establishment.

    I suspect that the Republicans’ opposition has little to do with keeping in agreement with the professional views of the military and national security agencies and even less to do with making America safer…

    …and a great deal to do with opposition to ANYTHING that President Obama supports, no matter how good it is for America or how pre-Dubya Republicans would almost certainly have been strongly supportive of it. Yep – that’s the ONLY thing wrong with the START treaty: Obama’s for it, so therefore all Real Americans must oppose it, right?

  • I don’t see the Constitutional issue here. There’s no mandate in the Constitution to vote for a treaty within any specific trime frame.