RICE GETS ON BOARD…. Last week, the Washington Post ran an op-ed co-written by Secretaries of State for the past five Republican presidents: Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, James A. Baker III, Lawrence Eagleburger, and Colin Powell. All five urged the Senate to ratify the pending arms treaty called New START.

There was, however, a name noticeable in its absence. Has anyone heard from Condoleezza Rice lately?

As it turns out, the Secretary of State from George W. Bush’s second term broke her relative silence this morning.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, writing in the Wall Street Journal, urges the Senate to ratify the new START treaty, but to make clear to Moscow the treaty doesn’t limit U.S. missile defenses.

Rice — George W. Bush’s secretary of state and a former NSC official in his father’s administration as well as a fluent Russian speaker — has been conspicuously missing until now from the lists of former GOP national security heavy-weights who have lined up to endorse the U.S.-Russian nuclear arms reduction treaty, whose antecedents have enjoyed broad bipartisan support. Among those backing the treaty: Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, James Baker, Brent Scowcroft and George Shultz, as well as ranking Senate Foreign Relations Committee Republican Dick Lugar (R-Indiana).

One advocate of the treaty questioned the importance of Rice’s public endorsement at this late stage, given signs, he said, the deal is already basically sealed. But it’s worth considering whether Rice, who recently met with Obama in the Oval Office, kept her endorsement in reserve ’til now closer to when START advocates are making a full-court press to get the treaty a Senate vote.

Excluding the current Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who obviously backs the treaty, there are eight former Secretaries of State, six of whom served Republican presidents. All eight support swift Senate ratification of New START.

When it comes to foreign policy and U.S. diplomacy, this is a little something folks like to call “consensus.”

We talked last week about the declining influence of the Republican Party’s old-guard elder statesmen, who’ve been deemed irrelevant by congressional GOP caucuses that keep shifting further and further to the right. But it wasn’t too long ago that the combined judgment on an arms treaty of eight former secretaries of state, five former secretaries of defense from both parties, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, seven former Strategic Command chiefs, national security advisers from both parties, and nearly all former commanders of U.S. nuclear forces used to mean something.

Steve Benen

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.