SCOWCROFT GOES THERE…. Politico reports today on Sen. Dick Lugar (R) of Indiana, who has taken a strong leadership role on New START ratification, despite the larger partisan dynamic. That the treaty was negotiated by a president of the other party appears completely irrelevant to the respected former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
But the article notes that the elder statesmen of the Republican Party have been left largely mystified by the blind partisanship of their party’s senators. (via Ben Armbruster)
In an attempt to rally bipartisan support for the treaty, the White House has enlisted the kind of GOP foreign policy wise men that Lugar exemplifies — among them former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and James A. Baker. But they have had no success with members of their own party, and it has left them scratching their heads over the source of the GOP opposition.
“It’s not clear to me what it is,” said Brent Scowcroft, a former national security adviser to President George H.W. Bush who noted that this START treaty is not very different from previous ones negotiated and ratified under Republican presidents. “I’ve got to think that it’s the increasingly partisan nature and the desire for the president not to have a foreign policy victory.”
This is no small observation. Scowcroft, one of the more respected Republican voices in the national security establishment, is noting, on the record, that he suspects his own party is putting their partisan interests above the needs of the nation. The underlying point of an observation like Scowcroft is that he sees his Republican Party putting petty partisanship above national security.
What’s more, others in the political establishment are beginning to reach the same conclusion. AEI’s Norm Ornstein, marveling at GOP’s misconduct this week, said, “I cannot fathom why they are doing what they are doing.” The Washington Post Dana Milbank noted last week that Republicans appear to be “trying to weaken Americans’ security,” concluding, “To borrow Bush’s phrase, are Republicans not interested in the security of the American people?” Paul Krugman argued that the GOP is blocking ratification “not because of legitimate objections, but simply because it’s an Obama administration initiative; if sabotaging the president endangers the nation, so be it.”
I can appreciate the reluctance of questioning politicians’ motives, but there’s an ongoing effort underway to try to understand why Republicans would choose to act this way. So far, a variety of observers from left to right seem to be having trouble identifying a good-faith rationale for the GOP’s opposition. That some of this is coming from the likes of Brent Scowcroft should send a pretty loud signal to the rest of the political world.