George Will’s unfounded admiration for Jon Kyl

GEORGE WILL’S UNFOUNDED ADMIRATION FOR JON KYL…. George Will turns his attention today to the pending arms control treaty, New START, and seems pleased with Republican obstructionist tactics. The column, not surprisingly, has more than a few flaws.

Will argues, for example, that the administration has prioritized the treaty because President Obama “needs a success somewhere.” Is that really the best Will can do? Is it not possible that the president agrees with a half-dozen former Secretaries of State and Defense, the Pentagon, and the Joint Chiefs about the national security importance of New START?

I won’t go paragraph by paragraph here, but I was also struck by Will’s praise for the confused Senate Minority Whip.

Deeply informed and rationally skeptical, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) is arguing from the position of increased strength created on Nov. 2: Come January, there will be six more Republican senators. He implicitly — and lucidly — treats Russia itself as of secondary importance in the treaty. He is using his enhanced leverage primarily to increase the administration’s commitment to modernization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal: All nuclear weapons decay, and no U.S. weapon has been tested since 1992.

This is wrong on multiple levels. For one thing, Kyl isn’t “deeply informed.” On the contrary, he’s proven to be strikingly confused about a subject he has little familiarity with. In August, eight months after inspections of Russia’s long-range nuclear bases stopped, Kyl conceded he was wrong about the relevant details — he assumed the inspections were ongoing while he played games with the treaty. Even David Broder, not exactly a liberal attack dog, lamented the high price we’re having to pay for Kyl’s “ignorance.”

As for the administration’s commitment to modernization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, there’s a detail Will’s column neglected to mention: the Obama administration has already given Kyl what he requested (and then some). Instead of taking “yes” for an answer, the conservative senator balked anyway, betraying White House officials who negotiated with him in good faith.

What’s more, Will also forgot to let readers know that Kyl is so committed to the seriousness of the treaty and the larger issue, he effectively admitted yesterday that he’ll be more inclined to let the Senate do its duty if Dems give Republicans a bunch of tax breaks for the wealthy.

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Steve Benen

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.