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Posted at 11:29 AM ET, 12/21/2010

START the counterfactuals

By Ezra Klein

It looks like the START treaty will pass. That's as it should be: With the last six Republican secretaries of state supporting a treaty negotiated by a Democratic administration, this is as close to a consensus document as you can find in American politics.

And yet it'll just barely squeak by in the Senate. If there hadn't been a lame-duck session that took place after the heat of the election, it probably wouldn't have have passed at all. Some goes for a Senate with many more Republicans.

So here's a thought experiment: If the same treaty had been negotiated by President John McCain, what would the final vote in the Senate have been? My sense is that it would've been very different indeed. And that means that even on something like a nuclear-arms treaty with Russia, partisan incentives trump policy considerations. There's something deeply scary about that.

By Ezra Klein  | December 21, 2010; 11:29 AM ET
 
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Comments

This has been going on since the early 90s.

Which is one reason I am no longer a Republican.

The GOP sabotaged Clinton's 94 NK agreement and as a result NK exploded nukes in the early aughts using nuclear fuel that at one time was crated, sealed with UN tags, and inspected and ready to ship to America until the GOP flexed their new muscles and scuttled the deal.

Clinton also had a new NK agreement in 2000 to get rid of long range rockets and artillery along with nukes, but Bush scuttled that agreement too, against the fervant desire of the SK gvmt.

All the idiotic amateurs here will pretend there were good reasons to scuttle those agreements, but I've spent lots of time (several years ago) listening to and reading from experts on the NK subject who will testify that Clinton had very good agreements with NK that could have prevented lots of issues we now have with them.

Posted by: lauren2010 | December 21, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Really, you should say "Republican partisan incentives trump policy considerations." It's right there in your counter-factual. President McCain would have received near unanimous support, which means Democrats would have put partisan incentives aside.

Posted by: randrewm | December 21, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Ezra: why haven't you said anything about the 9/11 first responders bill? (If you did and I missed it, apologies). If you had to come up with an issue on which you could find the broadest consensus amongst the American public, I suspect caring for the first responders to 9/11 is probably the best you could come up with. And yet Republicans have voted against it originally and have been delaying it - arguably trying to kill it again - recently, just for revenge or leverage, or whatever other political incentive is motivating them. I find that even scarier.

Posted by: bigmandave | December 21, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Ezra: why haven't you said anything about the 9/11 first responders bill? (If you did and I missed it, apologies). If you had to come up with an issue on which you could find the broadest consensus amongst the American public, I suspect caring for the first responders to 9/11 is probably the best you could come up with. And yet Republicans have voted against it originally and have been delaying it - arguably trying to kill it again - recently, just for revenge or leverage, or whatever other political incentive is motivating them. I find that even scarier.

Posted by: bigmandave | December 21, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Why did these Dumbasscrats spend a year trying to take over healthcare and give away money to their base rather than doing stuff like this?

End the lame duck sessions.

Posted by: krazen1211 | December 21, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Why on earth are you commenting on START. Its far outside of your league, besides the fact that Obama likes it so it must be good. First you were just a economic opinion writer, then you somehow co-oped domestic policy into it.

One thing I somewhat respected in the past was at least he stuck to economic issues and health care. You have no business writing about FP, leave it to people who know what they are talking about.

This post is a perfect example about whats wrong with politics. Ezra and Obama are patting themselves on the back over Start, while the economy still is awful and the government is scheduled to shut down in 12 hours. Lets fix the important things first instead of worrying about a pointless treaty when there is little threat of a nuclear war with Russia.

Posted by: Natstural | December 21, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Even Interns working in Foreign Capitals know - the only international agreements which USA honor are those which are initiated and bought by GOP. Whole world knows that Democrats simply do not have credibility when it comes Foreign Policy Agreements in USA Politics.

Is it right? No. Is it costing American People? Probably not. I say this despite being a Democrat.

The New START Treaty originated in a Dem White House when Dems had sizable majority in Senate. Things have changed since then. As long as a different process is adopted by Obama in going forward, surprise - he may get more juice on Foreign Policy front. The trick will be get GOP way too early on the board. Rather let GOP Senators practically make the deals and that way the passage will be easy.

GOP will continue to have some incentive to pass few bi-partisan measures to 'show off' their credentials. To pass measures about Foreign Policy is less contentious (unless it is a free trade compact). While GOP triggers the 'dreaded brawl' about Domestic Politics, led by belligerent GOP House; it is good politics to pass measures of foreign policy which are practically negotiated by GOP lead.

Obama would not have any choice. He is looking potentially for 4 years of governance with GOP dominated Congress because in 2012; more than 20 Dem Senators are for re-elections and possibly Senate would flip to McConnell. So essentially Obama is looking for both terms working along with GOP.

Longer term - it is a different issue how Dems can build their credibility on Foreign Policy turf. Part of it will be what Krugman calls standing for principles. But I doubt, anyone knows the keys here. Chances are that Obama's 'reconciliation / capitulation' at start, may be the only right course.

Ezra - he is just lamenting the fact that GOP 'scr*ws' Dems. Did McConnell not very much thundered that in Politico interview? (It is a different matter that he was really answering the snub by Charles Kruathammer...) Any ideas here Ezra, apart from simply lamenting?

Posted by: umesh409 | December 21, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Well except that Obama has done a really good job managing the relationship with Russia and there is a significant chance that McCain would have completely screwed up START. Given how he's been demagoguing about Russia it doesn't bode well.

Posted by: tmorgan2 | December 21, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Most Republicans on Capitol Hill hate Democrats more than they love America. They're obsessed with us.

Them's the facts.

Posted by: paul65 | December 21, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

True - Obama has managed relations with Russia well.

President McCain for sure would have screwed relations with Russia with all his love for Georgia (that stupid comment like 'we all are Georgians today...'). The guy would have more or less continued Bush policy of 'pissing off rest of the world'. I guess such a thorough discrediting of GOP lead Bush Foreign Policy would have only restored faith of Americans with Dems when it comes to Foreign Policy.

Till then Barack Obama will have to continue to buy votes of Tennessee Lemar Alexander type Senators by throwing more Fed money bones as like how he did in this case - more funds for Oak Ridge National Laboratory by generating jobs in Tennessee. Hey, what can a Dem do apart from 'throwing some tax payer dough to create jobs'? That is their wont...

But yes, even if Hillary's reset button did not work at first; Obama with his Nobel Peace Prize and START treat can go a long way for America's peace.

Posted by: umesh409 | December 21, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

The media debate is in full swing about the President’s huge lame duck session, and what it will mean for his poll numbers. Now as we sit on the precipice of the START treaty ratification, I felt it was important to glance back in the history of this President and see why exactly we are here today. A kind of struggle through the white noise if you will:

http://www.doubledutchpolitics.com/2010/12/for-obama-new-strategic-arms-reduction-treaty-is-start-of-legacy/

Posted by: RyanC1384 | December 21, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

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