ROMNEY’S ‘THOROUGHLY IGNORANT’ NEW START CRITIQUE…. Watching Mitt Romney talk about foreign policy and national security issues has always reminded me a bit of a kid playing “dress up” by wearing grown-up clothes. It’s endearing, in a silly kind of way, to see Romney pretend to have credibility on the subject, but like the kids whose clothes don’t fit, the effort quickly leads to ridiculous results.

Remember the time Romney told ABC News he would “set a deadline for bringing the troops home” from Iraq — but only if it’s a secret deadline that “the enemy” couldn’t see? How about the time Romney, in 2007, said it’s “entirely possible” that Saddam Hussein hid weapons of mass destruction in Syria prior to the 2003 invasion? Or the time Romney pretended “Hezbollah and Hamas and al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood” were all the same thing? How about my personal favorite: the time Romney made the bizarre assertion that IAEA weapons inspectors were not allowed entry into Saddam Hussein’s Iraq?

But Romney just keeps trying. Yesterday, he wrote a Washington Post op-ed on the New START treaty, which he characterized as President Obama’s “worst foreign policy mistake yet.” The former one-term governor characterized the treaty as “a nonstarter.”

Some very strong responses to Romney’s piece have already been published by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and the Center for American Progress’ Max Bergmann, but perhaps the most detailed, point-by-point refutation comes by way of Slate‘s Fred Kaplan, who exposed Romney’s piece as vapid nonsense.

In 35 years of following debates over nuclear arms control, I have never seen anything quite as shabby, misleading and—let’s not mince words—thoroughly ignorant as Mitt Romney’s attack on the New START treaty in the July 6 Washington Post.

Senate Republicans are looking for some grounds — any grounds — to defeat this treaty, which was signed in April by President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart, Dmitri Medvedev, and which will soon come to the Senate floor for a vote.

Romney, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts, clearly feels the need to pump up some foreign-policy swagger in advance of the 2012 presidential primaries. But one would think he could have found a ghostwriter who had even the vaguest acquaintance with the subject matter.

Kaplan literally goes line by line, in as thorough a take-down as I’ve seen in quite a while. Romney is left looking like a fool.

In the larger context, my biggest concern is that opposition to the treaty will become a standard Republican move to prove one’s right-wing bona fides. That would be a disaster — this treaty needs to pass, and like all treaties, it’ll need 67 votes in the Senate. That means at least eight GOP senators have to vote for it if it comes to the floor this year, or probably more if it’s voted on next year.

Several officials with stature among Republicans — Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), Henry Kissinger, Reagan Secretary of State George Schultz, Reagan Chief of Staff Kenneth Duberstein, Colin Powell, former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Reagan Chief of Staff Howard Baker, former Sen. John Danforth (R-Mo.) — have already endorsed New START, and have urged Congress to ratify it. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mullen has said the treaty “has the full support of your uniformed military.”

Whether Senate Republicans listens to this group or Mitt Romney remains to be seen.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.