The effort to make Kyl happy

THE EFFORT TO MAKE KYL HAPPY…. On “Meet the Press” yesterday, Republican activist Ed Gillespie joined the roundtable discussion, and for some reason, was asked to reflect on his party’s handling of the pending nuclear arms treaty, New START. He made a comment that was both important and wrong.

“You know, [Sen. Jon Kyl] has been asking legitimate questions for a long time about the START treaty,” Gillespie said. “He’s the number two Republican in the Senate, he is the leader in our party on these nuclear weapons issues, and the White House is essentially acted as if they’re getting, you know, mail from a college intern working for a freshman House member.”

To his credit, E.J. Dionne piped up and insisted that this is “not true.” Regrettably, he wasn’t given much of a chance to elaborate, and Gillespie insisted his version of reality is accurate.

It isn’t. In Grown-Up Land, the Obama administration has been working with Kyl for months, trying to understand exactly what he’s looking for, and making every effort to satisfy his demands. I don’t really expect Gillespie to understand the issues he pops off on when appearing on national television, and David Gregory has already scoffed at the notion of fact-checking guests’ on-air claims, but the truth is important here.

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.

An AP report added two weeks ago, “In a sign of the urgency of the administration’s pitch, White House aides traveled to Kyl’s home state of Arizona to brief him on the proposal” on modernization, the senator’s top stated goal.

To argue that the administration has treated Kyl like “a college intern working for a freshman House member” is just insane.