With Mitch McConnell in the Room, Clinton Makes Robust Case for New START Ratification
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is giving a speech right now at the University of Louisville about nuclear security. Its overall purpose is to build a domestic political constituency for “a vision of a world in which nuclear materials are not easily available and all states adopt responsible stewardship of all nuclear material.” To reassure jittery conservatives that this isn’t some dirty-hippie fantasy, she even donated a third of the speech to the importance of keeping the U.S. nuclear arsenal in order to play a “stabilizing role… as long as nuclear weapons exist.” But the subtext is simple: the Republicans need to ratify the New START nuclear arms-reduction accord with the Russians.
Clinton made her case with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in the room. In fact, McConnell introduced her, and immediately after he did, Clinton lavishly praised his bipartisan credentials — a direct challenge to McConnell, who’s positioned himself as a New START skeptic. The disarmament goals the Obama administration seeks and the treaty pursues, she said, are “not new. They’re not controversial. Leaders of both parties have been working toward these goals for decades.” She listed the long history of 90-plus Senate votes for arms control ratification for the past two decades, calling the treaty “the latest chapter in the history of American nuclear responsibility… co-authored by Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush… I’m confident when senators get a chance to study the treaty, we’ll have the same high levels of bipartisan supports as the ones it builds upon.” Anticipating GOP objections on missile defense or rogue-state proliferation, Clinton said she wasn’t suggesting New START in itself would lead to a change in Iranian or North Korean proliferation efforts. But she said that ratification would remove objections at the United Nations Security Council to placing “tough” economic sanctions on Iran (“as strong a resolution as we possibly can”) and would “boost our credibility as we ask other countries to help shore up the nonproliferation regime.” Ratifying the treaty can “persuade other nations to support serious sanctions against Iran.” In other words: if you vote against New START, you’re letting the Iranian regime effectively off the hook.
Same deal with missile defense. Sharp, short, declarative statements: One provision “we specifically did not limit” in the treaty “is missile defense.” It provides “no limit” to the missile shield Republicans have venerated since Ronald Reagan dreamed it up. “Regional missile defense will be an important source of protection for allies,” Clinton pledged. Accordingly, by ratifying New START, “The United Sates won’t give up anything of strategic importance, but in return, we will receive tangible benefits.” Does McConnell have a comeback?