‘I CANNOT FATHOM WHY THEY ARE DOING WHAT THEY ARE DOING’…. I think it’s fair to say Norm Ornstein, a congressional expert at the American Enterprise Institute, isn’t exactly a raging liberal.

So when he notes in his Roll Call column that Senate Republican tactics on the pending arms control treaty with Russia, New START, are “unsettling and depressing,” I hope Ornstein’s concerns are not only harder to dismiss, but are also taken seriously.

[Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.)] has long been a Senator I admire for his seriousness of purpose, his intellect, and his decency. [Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)] is a thoughtful, solid and independent conservative, a rising star in the Senate, who voted for the treaty in the Foreign Relations Committee. [Sen.-elect Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)] brings real depth and experience from his position of leadership in the House; I always found him to be one who put national interest ahead of cheap shots, at least on the international front.

I cannot fathom why they are doing what they are doing. [Reagan Administration Secretary of State George Schultz] is not exactly a wimp when it comes to dealing with Russia or threats in the world. No one understands the dynamics of global relations and America’s role in the world — much less the dangers of nuclear proliferation — more than [Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.)].

Our military leaders are not prone to wishful thinking or peace-at-any-price thinking. The stakes for America’s national interest, including Iran and Afghanistan, are immense here. Please, guys, suck it up and find a way to make this work. [emphasis added]

I tend to disagree with some of Ornstein’s assessments of the GOP players here — Kyl conceded in August that he just assumed, falsely, that nuclear-site inspections were continuing while he held up New START, which does not speak well of his intellect or seriousness of purpose.

But Ornstein’s larger point clearly has merit. Partisan games come and go, but we’re talking about international affairs, nuclear proliferation, national security, and American credibility on the global stage. There are, in other words, some policy areas where even Republicans are supposed to be able to be grown-ups, and put the nation’s needs first.

Except, that’s not happening. Ornstein’s good advice notwithstanding, a few too many Senate Republicans don’t want to “suck it up”; they appear to want to undercut the U.S. government for partisan ends.

It’s what lead Paul Krugman to sound pretty convincing when he wrote, “These days, national security experts are tearing their hair out over the decision of Senate Republicans to block a desperately needed new strategic arms treaty. And everyone knows that these Republicans oppose the treaty, not because of legitimate objections, but simply because it’s an Obama administration initiative; if sabotaging the president endangers the nation, so be it.”

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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.