Thursday, November 18, 2010

The GOP: Angry and without Solutions: Part I

The Republicans have taken back control of the House. The Democrats still control the Senate but just barely. Of course the president is still Democrat Barack Obama. And the Supreme Court is still the most conservative court in decades. It's a tangled picture and it's not clear how well it serves the American people.

The Republicans and their conservative allies in the Democratic party have pretty much had their way since January 1981, but reading and listening to various conservative commentaries might lead many people to believe otherwise. When the new Congress sits, liberal, progressive or socialist Democrats, whatever one prefers to call them, will have only been in charge for 4 years out of the last 30: 1993-1995 and 2009-2011. These numbers are not difficult to check.

For 26 of the last 30 years, conservatives have been in charge, and don't have much to show for it. And yet Republicans keep returning to office. Why? Largely because they are very effective at tapping into anger Americans have been feeling since the 1970s. Sometimes that anger has been forgotten but whenever the Republicans get into trouble, they tap into that anger, they renew it, and they squeeze it.

In January, a very angry group of Republicans will be arriving in Washington and they have no solutions. It's not even clear whether or not they will be interested in bipartisanship. We will see. There are times when bipartisanship, however, is vital.

Since the 1940s, bipartisanship has been essential for America's foreign policy. Never mind that mistakes, sometimes serious ones, have been made by both parties. It has been apparent for some time that a number of issues cannot be handled in real world terms without cooperation when the government changes hands. A good example is in the news today. Here's the story from Mike Shuster of NPR:
The United States and the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan have completed moving some 100 tons of highly radioactive material from a Caspian Sea port in the country's west to a safe storage site in northeastern Kazakhstan.

The shipments included enough dangerous nuclear material for nearly 800 nuclear weapons.

Years in the planning, the project took a year to move the material by rail and road 1,500 miles across the country. The last of the shipments was delivered Monday.

One of the reasons the material was moved is that it was too exposed to potential terrorists, particularly by way of the Caspian Sea. The country of Kazakhstan is one of the products of the breakup of the former Soviet Union. To this day, not all the nuclear materials of that era have been rounded up and secured. Keep in mind that the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991 when Bush 41 was president and concern was raised then about the fate of various nuclear materials, including what was in Kazakhstan. The actual project got under way during the Clinton years, continued under Bush 43 and has now been completed under Obama. It took 20 years and four presidents to get the job done. Sometimes bipartisanship is absolutely necessary.

Republican Senator Dick Lugar is one of the most respected foreign policy experts in Washington. Lugar has been concerned about nuclear proliferation for years and applauds what was done in Kazakhstan. He knows nuclear issues are sensitive and need to be handled carefully.
He has been a voice of reason when some Republicans have called for bombing Iran's nuclear projects without understanding the likely consequences. I don't always agree with Lugar. He's a conservative Republican and I'm a progressive Democrat. But I respect him.

This week, Obama is trying to set the ground for the passage of a new nuclear arms deal with Russia. Here's the story from Daniel Dombey in the Financial Times:
On a visit to the US Capitol to drum up votes among recalcitrant Republicans, Hillary Clinton, secretary of state, warned on Wednesday that failure to ratify the new Start treaty this year would put the country at risk from the “continuing threat” posed by Russian nuclear weapons.

Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, later added he was “extremely concerned” no treaty was yet in place.

The deal is at the heart of President Barack Obama’s nuclear non-proliferation agenda and his initiative to improve relations with Russia. Its collapse could also sap confidence in the president’s ability to conclude international agreements.

Whatever one thinks about the Republican victory this November, the arms treaty is a big deal. Again, since the fall of the Soviet Union, there have been efforts to deal with nuclear proliferation and disarmanant issues since the first President Bush. For various reasons, probably because of prodding from Dick Cheney, the second Bush put some of these issues on the back burner. That move was considered by many foreign policy experts to be a mistake.

Now it is crunch time. Dick Lugar favors the START treaty and wants it passed:
Strong words today from ranking Repblican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Dick Lugar, insisting that ratification of the New START treaty should be voted on during the lame-duck session, despite Sen. Jon Kyl's announcement yesterday of his opposition to a vote (not to the treaty). His exact words: "We're at a point where we're unlikely to have either the treaty or modernization unless we get real." Translation: 'amateur hour is over.'

We're about to find out if a majority of Republicans can focus on solutions or whether they truly are committed to two years of playing games. If Republicans do not focus on solutions, problem after problem that have been festering for 30 years are only going to get worse.



Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home