The president has committed himself to a modest reduction in the U.S. nuclear arsenal and, more importantly, the curtailment of our missile defense programs in exchange for modest cuts by the Russians to their arsenal.
The Prague agreement signed today was an easy sell for Russian President Dimitry Medvedev because his arsenal is in much worse shape overall than ours. We have confidence that most of our nukes would still work if doomsday came. The Russians can count on only some of theirs working. Plus, if you can get President Obama to give up on new missile defense and get your own tactical nukes exempted, it’s a win-win-win for Russia.
But when each country has the power to produce a nuclear holocaust, why quibble about numbers? And why bother with such efforts at all?
First, Obama is committed to proving wrong the ideas about nuclear arms that Ronald Reagan proved right.
Many liberals believe that the fall of the Soviet Union was likely inevitable and that Reagan’s arms buildup succeeded mostly in making the world a more dangerous place. Had we followed the advice of Joe Biden and others in the 1980s of easing up on the Soviets, the theory holds that we would have gotten all of the democracy and less of the nukes. It’s a lot of sour grapes over the most stinging defeat of Western liberal ideology in the 20th Century, but it’s still very real in the think tanks and with old anti-Cold Warriors like Biden.
The other appeal in talking so much about an issue that has so little to do with the largest threats facing the nation is that is a chance to repudiate the Bush administration’s frosty relationship with Russia. Obama folks are lining to drop blind quotes about “pushing the resent button” and how the relationship has turned around in 15 months.
Writer Jonathan Weisman was with Obama in Prague:
“The White House has sold the new treaty as a significant cut in deployed U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads, from the 2,200 limit each side agreed to in 2002 to 1,550. But quirks in the treaty's counting rules mean that under one scenario, the U.S. could meet its new obligations by mothballing just 100 warheads, according to the Federation of American Scientists, which tracks nuclear arsenals. Russia needs to remove only 190.”
The waiting and hoping for West Virginia mine families ends today as crews make their way through the Upper Big Branch mine. We all still pray that the four unaccounted for found rescue chambers and are alive, but also expect the worst.
Timesmen Ian Urbina and John Leland provide a very worthwhile profile of Massey Energy CEO Blankenship.
Many kudos to Urbina and Leland for making an effort to understand a man and a region that defy easy comprehension.
“‘There is a lot of pride that Massey people feel about their work and working in the mines over all,’ said Robin Shamblin, whose sister, Bobbie, is a miner at Upper Big Branch, where the explosion occurred. In talking to his childhood associates and the people who work with him and against him, they shed some light on an obscure subject.
‘They are happy to be working and many, not all, but many feel lucky to be working for Massey and Blankenship.’
Betty Harrah, whose brother Steve Harrah, 40, was among those killed on Monday, said Mr. Blankenship was to be credited with providing what few jobs are left in the hollows in this hardscrabble part of the state. She said that her brother had started working in mines after serving in the military, and that he loved his co-workers and was proud to be working for Massey.
‘He had offers to go other places and he turned them down,’ Ms. Harrah said Tuesday. Mr. Harrah chose Massey because it pays well, she said.”
President Obama went to great lengths to shame Hamid Karzai on his trip to Afghanistan two weeks ago. Since then Karzai has been ratcheting up the anti-Western rhetoric. Now the U.S. is working on cooling things out with our man in Afghanistan.
As we’ve known all along, once the Obama administration opted to stick with Karzai, whatever Karzai did, short of actually joining the Taliban, would be ours to deal with.
Consider this the corollary to the Powell Doctrine – If you built it, you bought it.
Writer Mark Landler explains:
“For all the harsh words back and forth, Mr. Crowley said the administration was still in close touch with Mr. Karzai. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke to him on Friday. He met over the weekend with the top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, and with the American ambassador, Karl W. Eikenberry.”
Writer Charlie Savage looks at the strange fate of the leading light of the liberal legal community, Lawrence Tribe.
When Tribe left his perch at Harvard Law school to come to the Obama administration, conservative commentators warned of a radical influence. But Savage finds Tribe stuck in a Po-dunk office at the Justice Department working on expanding access for poor people to lawyers. The solutions are pretty simple – get more money for legal aid lawyers and provide incentives for doing pro bono work. It’s an incremental process that doesn’t have anything to do with the way the law is written or interpreted.
So why has the venerable Tribe been stuffed away? I suspect its partly to avoid embarrassments from having a bomb-thrower in a top slot. I also suspect that it’s because much of Tribe’s work has been aimed at circumscribing executive power and Obama deeply digs executive power.
Savage explores the former but mostly neglects the latter. In the Times’ world, when bad things happen in the Obama administration it is usually against the will or without the knowledge of the president.
“Admirers and detractors alike say that no law professor of his generation has had greater influence; many believe he would be a Supreme Court justice today had he not earned enduring Republican enmity by leading academic efforts to portray Robert H. Bork as an outside-the-mainstream conservative when he was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1987. (Mr. Bork was not confirmed.)
For that reason, officials decided that Mr. Tribe could not be given a position that would require Senate confirmation, like solicitor general, because Republicans would probably go to war against him, with decades of legal writings to mine for ammunition.
There was also concern over how his presence might play out internally, several administration officials said. Some officials feared that he might be unmanageable, intruding into all manner of policy areas and able to call on Mr. Obama as a trump card.”
Writers Spencer Hsu and Clarence Williams show how well the Obama administration learned the lessons of the bungled response to the Christmas underpants bomber.
When some Qatari diplo-brat lit up a smoke in the head on a D.C. to Denver flight, the president was briefed right away and two F-16s went out to intercept the flight. If it had been a cigar, I suppose they would have had orders to shoot the plane down.
Tobacco enthusiast Mohammed al-Madadi apparently lot quite lippy with air marshals who questioned him about the smoky smell in the lavatory – talking about diplomatic immunity etc.
“An official suggested that the disturbance might have resulted from a ‘misunderstanding’ created by the passenger's response to marshals' questioning. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.”
--My column on why the GOPs future viability with minority voters demands that Michael Steele be cashiered is here.
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