What Graham considers a ‘stumbling block’

WHAT GRAHAM CONSIDERS A ‘STUMBLING BLOCK’…. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told ABC’s Christiane Amanpour yesterday that he’s “very open-minded” about the New START nuclear arms treaty, but he sees “two impediments.”

As Graham explained it, “Modernization. Not only do we need a START Treaty; we need to modernize our nuclear force, the weapons that are left, to make sure they continue to be a deterrent. And we need to make sure that we can employ — deploy missile defense systems that are apart from START. So you’ve got two stumbling blocks.”

Tanya Somanader explained that Graham’s flubbing all the relevant details.

The only problem with Graham’s “stumbling blocks” is that they don’t actually exist. While “security experts” like Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and former Bush administration Ambassador John Bolton insist that Obama is “risking our security” by supposedly not focusing on modernization of America’s nuclear arsenal, the actual rocket scientists of an independent defense advisory panel determined that not only are the weapons completely reliable, but that our current “nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss in effectiveness.” To make sure this remains the case, the Obama administration devoted $7 billion to maintain the nuclear-weapons stockpile — $600 million more than Congress approved last year and 10 percent more than what the Bush administration spent.

As for START’s impact on missile defense, Director of the Missile Defense Agency Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly made it clear that the new treaty “has no constraints on current and future components of the Ballistic Missile Defense System,” and that it actually “reduces” several limitations on cost-effective testing. Thus, given Graham’s criteria for support, treaty proponents should expect his vote.

In other words, Graham would be a “yes” vote if only he knew what he was talking about.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have an op-ed in the Washington Post today, insisting that “our national security depends on” New START ratification. Among other things, the cabinet secretaries emphasized the fact that it’s been almost a year since U.S. inspectors lost the ability to keep tabs on Russian nukes. Both Clinton and Gates are anxious to have the treaty ratified so checks can be reinstated — this is the first time in 15 years we’ve lost the ability to inspect Russian long-range nuclear bases.

But so long as senators like Graham have imaginary complaints, we’ll continue to wait.