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Romney shows the desperation of New START opponents

In a Washington Post op-ed, former governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney attacks the New START treaty and not-so-subtly takes aim at the Obama administration’s national security credentials. He urges Senate Republicans to block ratification of the treaty, which is likely to vote later this summer.

Here are some highlights from Romney’s ranting:

…The president’s New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New-START) with Russia could be his worst foreign policy mistake yet. The treaty as submitted to the Senate should not be ratified.

New-START impedes missile defense, our protection from nuclear-proliferating rogue states such as Iran and North Korea.

New START does something the American public would never countenance and the Senate should never permit: It jeopardizes our missile defense system.

Whatever the reason for the treaty’s failings, it must not be ratified: The security of the United States is at stake… In a world where nuclear weapons are proliferating, America’s missile defense shield must not be compromised. As currently drafted, New START is a non-starter.

The article is less a critique of the New START treaty and more of a personal attack on the Obama administration and its supposed history of domestic and foreign policy failures. He pokes fun at the President’s vision of global disarmament and the administration’s engagement with Iran and North Korea. He claims Obama is soft on “rogue nations” (that familiar catchphrase) yet miraculously fails to mention that those countries’ nuclear programs kicked into gear while threatened by George W. Bush’s hawkish regime. His chief complaint is the inaccurate myth that new START weakens the US missile system defense. Romney obviously hasn’t been listening to administration officials such as Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates who insist to the contrary.

Like the support for the treaty, the excoriation of Romney’s op-ed was bipartisan. Yesterday, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sen. John Kerry responded with his own Washington Post op-ed. He pokes holes in Romney’s creative use of the facts (to put it generously) and rightly accuses the fellow Massachusetts politicians of attempting to score “cheap political points.” Sen. Kerry’s counterpart on the committee, ranking Republican Richard Lugar (R-IN) also smacked down Romney’s “hyperbolic attack” on the treaty. Unencumbered by senatorial politeness, Slate Magazine writer Fred Kaplan pointed out numerous factual errors in his aptly titled response to “Mitt Romney’s dumb critique,” calling it “shabby, misleading…and thoroughly ignorant.”

The perpetual presidential candidate’s actions suggest ulterior motives: Romney is clearly trying to beef-up his credentials as a would-be commander in chief should he run against Obama in 2012. In the future, he might save himself some embarrassment by choosing to criticize Obama on a decision that isn’t supported by the entire reasonable bipartisan security establishment.

Let’s not forget about overwhelming bipartisan support for the New START treaty. Thirty high-ranking former national security advisors and foreign policy experts signed a statement released by Partnership for a Secure America. You can’t deny the bipartisanship of the document, signed by both former Secretary of States Colin Powell and Madeleine Albright. The truth is that the majority of national security experts support the New START treaty. Fortunately, Mitt Romney’s ridiculous claims and empty accusations prove he doesn’t qualify as an expert. Maybe Henry Kissinger should let the former governor know that the Cold War is over.

The worst part of Romney’s article is the role it may play in pushing on-the-fence Senate Republicans to abandon the New START in favor of petty party politics. And that makes Romney’s otherwise hapless foreign policy attempt a whole lot scarier. Thankfully, there are far more credible foreign policy experts from both sides of the aisle who will be sharing the real facts with those senators in the last crucial weeks.

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