It was intriguing that the Obama White House, which supposedly wanted to make nice after a bruisingly partisan campaign effort, had launched into its first big post-Election Day fight with weapons from its supposedly abandoned arsenal: that is, charging that those who disagree with you are merely partisan, and suggesting the collapse of humanity if your position is not adopted.
The news last week that Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) did not support going ahead with the START treaty during the lame duck session was greeted by sonorous alarms sounded by Vice President Biden.
Well, that was, as we say in the arms control community, a tidy pile of BS. Russia and the United States haven’t been inspecting each others’ nuclear stashes for about a year, so another couple of months isn’t going to make a difference.
Besides, does Biden think Russia is about to attack the United States? We’ve still got plenty of crap around to send back their way, I think. And besides, Hillary and the Russian foreign minister pushed the Reset Button.
Then Obama himself chimed in, trying to have it both ways, saying opposition was partisan, and that it was not.
In answer to a question at a press conference in Lisbon Saturday, he said Republicans were playing politics by not moving on START.
There’s no other reason not to do it than the fact that Washington has become a very partisan place. And this is a classic area where we have to rise above partisanship.
Then later, responding to another question, he reeled it back in.
I have spoken to Senator Kyl directly and I believe that Senator Kyl wants a safe and secure America, just like I do, and is well motivated. And so what I said in terms of partisanship is that the climate in Washington is one where it’s hard to get parties to cooperate, especially after a big election.
Uh, OK, whatever. The climate.
Well, I’m pretty sure politics is at least part of what’s motivating Kyl. But it’s not just politics – and Kyl does raise objections that have been lodged to the treaty by serious people, like arms control expert and Clinton-era CIA director James Woolsey.
So the White House would do well to try to argue something on the merits, stop stomping its collective feet, and take the vitriol out of it, for a change.
That’s just what White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs did today in answer to a START question.
Q At what point does it just become a political disagreement?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think as the president said on Saturday, that we take everyone at their word that they are here to protect and do all that they can to protect the country.
Nice to see Obama reminding himself and the staff of his pledge to be civil. Even if it’s just a tactic. After promising hope and change and delivering little of either, the president needs to work on his, um, consistency.