The fallout of Kyl’s betrayal

THE FALLOUT OF KYL’S BETRAYAL…. The optimism hadn’t been expressed publicly, but the White House really did think it finally had a deal in place for Senate ratification of the new arms control treaty with Russia, New START.

Republicans had made Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) their point man on the issue — it’s not clear why, since Kyl has no background or working knowledge of the issue — and he made specific objections to the Obama administration clear. Officials, in response, gave Kyl what we asked for. The deal, they thought, was done.

Over many months of negotiations, the administration committed to spending $80 billion to do that over the next 10 years, and on Friday offered to chip in $4.1 billion more over the next five years. As a gesture of commitment, the White House had made sure extra money for modernization was included in the stopgap spending resolution now keeping the government operating, even though almost no other program received an increase in money.

All told, White House officials counted 29 meetings, phone calls, briefings or letters involving Mr. Kyl or his staff. They said they thought they had given him everything he wanted, and were optimistic about completing a deal this week, only to learn about his decision on Tuesday from reporters.

Kyl wouldn’t even give the White House the courtesy of a phone call to let them know he was betraying them and the nation’s national security needs. Worse, the dimwitted Kyl, with the future of American foreign policy in his hands, couldn’t even give a coherent rationale for why he’d made the decision — his office would only say “there doesn’t appear to be enough time” in the lame-duck session.

This is what happens when serious officials try to negotiate in good faith with Republicans — they refuse to take “yes” for an answer, they don’t have intellectual capacity to explain why, and the entire country has to suffer the consequences.

The bulk of the Republican foreign policy apparatus enthusiastically supports this treaty, as does the entirety of America’s military, diplomatic, and intelligence leadership. Matt Cooper noted late yesterday:

Indeed, Republicans will need to explain why they want to sit on a treaty that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has described this way: “I believe — and the rest of the military leadership in this country believes — that this treaty is essential to our future security. I believe it enhances and ensures that security. And I hope the Senate will ratify it quickly.” […]

There are risks for Republicans who follow Kyl and find themselves on the opposite side of the military and diplomatic community on ratification of the treaty.

There should be risks, but they don’t really exist. Let me put this plainly: They. Don’t. Care. They disregard the pleas of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and listen to the confused misjudgments of a buffoon from Arizona. They assume the public isn’t paying attention, so there won’t be political consequences. They expect this to hurt the foreign policy power of the United States, but they’re fine with that since there’s a Democratic president.

When it comes to Russia, inspection of the country’s long-range nuclear bases will remain suspended indefinitely; the country’s hard-liners will be emboldened; and Russia’s willingness to cooperate with U.S. on Iran or on Afghanistan will likely disappear.

But in the bigger picture, countries around the globe will see this as a reminder that negotiating with the United States is pointless, since the country is burdened with a Republican Party that puts partisan hatred above the country’s interests. It hurts American credibility in ways that are hard to even gauge.

Sleep well, Jon Kyl. Dream of the time when the United States had the respect and stature to lead the world.