Fox News has generously placed the full, unedited conversation between Bill O’Reilly and Jon Stewart online, so we can see precisely how unfairly and deviously Fox edited the interview in order to weaken Stewart’s case: A lot!
Last night on his show—Part Two of a ludicrously overhyped “faceoff” between O’Reilly and Stewart in which Stewart attempted, among other things, to present a critique of Fox as a fear-mongering GOP messaging operation—O’Reilly boasted that his edit of their 42-minute interview for broadcast was “a fair cut” and invited viewers to have a look at the unedited version online to judge for themselves: “Some of these idiots in the press who hate us, ‘O’Reilly cut the interview to make Stewart look’—OK, all of that is bull. It’s a fair cut. And then when you watch the cut and watch the whole interview you’ll see it.”
So we took him up on the offer, and guess what? If by “fair cut” O’Reilly means “cut in a manner that left some of Stewart’s best lines, most effective arguments, and most convincing evidence out of the interview and hidden from the broadcast audience,” then he’s absolutely right.
Here’s the best exchange of the whole interview, in which Stewart gets O’Reilly to admit that he thinks Barack Obama believes in “tyranny and socialism,” and then asks him why Obama’s most generous spending has been to bail out banks. He closed with this unanswerable question: “How many tyrants do you know that really suffer because they can’t get cloture?” O’Reilly rejoindered with a lame joke about NBC, because what else could he do? None of this made the air:
There were also plenty of sharp points from Stewart that were edited down to, um, duller points. Take this exchange, from the Fox News cut:
STEWART: Here’s the brilliance - here’s the brilliance of Fox News. What you have been able to do, you and Dr. Ailes, have been able to mainstream conservative talk radio.
O’REILLY: Why wouldn’t John McCain come on this program during the last campaign? Why did he dodge us and not come on if you - (inaudible), if we’re in business to help the GOP, he wouldn’t come in.
STEWART: But you’re not in the business of John McCain. He is not GOP enough for you. You’re in the business to help Sarah Palin.
Here’s the unedited version, which includes Stewart’s cogent analysis of how Fox introduces noxious GOP talking points during Fox and Friends—he cites specific examples that the Daily Show has mocked, like Gretchen Carlson’s handwringing over the Russian derivation of the word “czar”—and then picks them up during the so-called “hard news” shows under the guise that it’s something people are talking about:
And to watch the Fox News cut of this exchange, you’d think O’Reilly scored a minor point by mocking Stewart’s repeated use of the word “cyclonic”
O’REILLY: Cavuto sane?
STEWART: Being the thinnest kid at fat camp. So let’s just get that straight. Here is what Fox has done through their cyclonic, perpetual…
O’REILLY: We’re back to the cyclonic.
STEWART: Their cyclonic perpetual emotion machine that is a 24-hour a day, 7-day a week. They’ve taken reasonable concerns about this president and this economy and turned it into a full-fledged panic attack about the next coming of Chairman Mao. Explain to me why that is the narrative of your network?
Here’s what Stewart really said about Neil Cavuto’s practice of raising “Is Obama a Stalinist?”-style questions:
I know what this is. I come from Jersey—it’s the same thing: “I’m not saying your mother’s a whore. I’m just saying she has sex for money. With people.” [F]ox News used to be all about, you don’t criticize a president during wartime. It’s unacceptable, it’s treasonous, it gives aid and comfort to the enemy. All of a sudden, for some reason you can run out there and say, “Barack Obama is destroying the fabric of this country.”
Of course, Fox had to cut something. But they left in a lengthy and stupid bit about Jon Stewart being O’Reilly’s vice president, and all sorts of lame O’Reilly banter. To his credit, O’Reilly did repeatedly point his viewers to the full interview online, so it’s not like he’s exactly trying to hide anything. More like he wants to look good on TV, which is basically the only thing he’s ever cared about aside from smearing deep-fried chickpea balls on naked underlings in the shower.
UPDATE: Here are some more clips, none of which made air. The most on-point is this one, in which O’Reilly goes after Stewart for “taking a clip, cutting it up, and making someone look like an idiot.” Stewart used a clip of O’Reilly for instance, “criticizing the Bush protesters—but you didn’t use the whole clip.” Because in order to fairly represent the views of a commentator, you have to use the full clip. (No, the O’Reilly edit didn’t unfairly present Stewart—it just deliberately removed his most effective arguments.)
Stewart also (genially) went after O’Reilly personally, as opposed to critiquing Fox News. Here’s a particularly spectacular moment that didn’t make the cut because, we assume, Stewart made O’Reilly look stupid for claiming to live among “the folks.”
O’REILLY: Do you know any Tea Party people?
STEWART: Yes, I do.
O’REILLY: Really? Down in Greenwich Village there are Tea Party people?
STEWART: Down in Greenwich Village? Let me tell you something, Bill—I’ll give you four blocks of Greenwich Village, and I’ll put that up against four blocks around your house—
STEWART: No, your house now.
O’REILLY: Oh, Levittown is where I was brought up.
STEWART: Well, you don’t live there any more brother.
Here, O’Reilly tries to make the case that Stewart would require bodily protection if he went to Charleston, S.C., presumably because he’s Jewish or something? Stewart calls the “real America” meme “idiotic”:
Stewart on Fox News’ “hyperventilating” about Khalid Sheikh Muhammad being tried in the U.S.: “He’s not Magneto—Khalid Sheikh Muhammad isn’t going to sprout wings and fly out and start shooting buildings with lasers.”
And here’s how he tries to compliment O’Reilly on what he sees as his relative level-headedness in the midst of the maelstrom of white rage that is Fox News:
Thanks go to Gawker video interns Aman Ellis and Jessica Poolt for carefully logging the full interview.
Send an email to the author of this post at email@example.com.
Host a Commit to Vote House Party
On Tuesday, October 12th, OFA volunteers nationwide are organizing house parties where they’ll gather with friends and neighbors to get folks involved in the elections and committed to vote—and then tune in to a special message from the President about committing to vote, delivered live from a conversation with OFA supporters at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
Can we count on you to help?
Supporters nationwide will gather with friends and neighbors on Tuesday, October 12, to get others involved in the elections and committed to vote—and to tune in to a special message from the President about committing to vote, delivered live from a conversation with supporters. Can you host a house party?
Don’t worry—no experience hosting an event is necessary, and we’ll provide all the materials and guidance you’ll need to be successful.
Democrats will hold the House and Senate
For Democrats, it’s Rove time: Rally the base and save Congressposted on September 30, 2010, at 5:55 PM
Maybe I’m wrong.
In fact, maybe I’m really, really wrong, which is the reaction I hear when I dare even to broach this notion to commentators and political strategists in both parties. So let me state it plainly: I now think the Democrats will hold the Congress—yes, the House as well as the Senate—and turn back high-profile Republican challengers in California and elsewhere.
The GOP strategy of “no” worked to slow the recovery, stoke fears about fictions like death panels in the health-reform bill, and persuade voters to strike out in frustration against Democrats. The trend peaked in August, a month Democrats probably wish they could abolish given the dog days they suffered then, in 2009 as well as 2010.
But with the onset of autumn, there are signs that the Republican tide is receding. Karl Rove would understand—the same dynamic was the key to George W. Bush’s narrow re-election in 2004, when the GOP base showed up to vote in numbers that defied the polling models. This time, it’s the Democratic base that’s stirring—and finally engaging—and the survey research is registering the shift. In the new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, the Republican advantage in the ballot for Congress has declined from nine points to three. The explanation: African-Americans and Hispanics are re-entering the likely electorate.Obama can change the political weather by a few degrees. That might be enough.
California is a prime example. The GOP covets a comeback in the state that produced Nixon and Reagan before turning a deep navy blue after the party scapegoated immigrants and scorned Hispanics. But Democrat Jerry Brown has pulled ahead of eBay mogul Meg Whitman, who’s bid $119 million and counting for the governorship (and yes, her paid consultants are counting fast and furious). Whitman never managed to open up a real lead even when she had California’s expensive airwaves to herself; now, after immigrant-baiting during the primary, she can’t afford for the electorate to expand.
Similarly, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer is pulling away from Republican Carly Fiorina, an ex-CEO renowned more for corporate failures than successes. Whitman comes across as stilted; Fiorina is the job-exporting equivalent of Cruella De Vil. As unappealing as her profile is even in a low-turnout election, it looks even worse as the likely voter pool grows.
Elsewhere, incumbent Democratic Sen. Patty Murray has strengthened her position in Washington state. And across the country, the Tea Party is the gift that keeps on giving—from Nevada to Delaware, where the unelectable Republican Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell has become a national punch line. The tea-imbibing Republicans are a twofer for Democrats: They scare mainstream voters and motivate the Democratic base, too. Thus in Pennsylvania, the ultra-conservative Pat Toomey, riding the currents of economic discontent, has suddenly hit troubled waters as people learn that his idea of reform is to privatize Social Security and “abolish corporate taxes altogether.” Discouraged blue-collar Democrats now have something to vote against other than the president’s failure to turn things around fast enough. Toomey’s margin over his Democratic opponent Joe Sestak is shrinking—first down to five points in a late September Suffolk University poll, and subsequently to three points in the latest Susquehanna numbers. A race that was written off is winnable.
Then there’s the Senate contest in incarnadined Kentucky, where from the start Democrats have defected in big numbers during the age of Obama. He lost the state decisively in 2008. This fall, Democrat Jack Conway’s making his case for them to come home. Or perhaps Rand Paul is making it for him. The fringe GOP nominee from the tea-precincts has seen his 13-point margin in the Survey USA poll cut to two points as Democrats recoil at notions like Paul’s proposed $2,000 deductible for Medicare. “That’s crazy,” a Kentucky senior says in Conway’s latest ad.
(Note: I’m dispensing in every race with the riotously Republican Rasmussen surveys, which are the psephological counterpart to the Laffer Curve on a cocktail napkin.)
So I believe the Senate’s safe. But what about the House? There is, of course, a spillover effect from statewide races and the nationwide distaste for extremist tea. The change in the makeup of the electorate can close the gap in the generic vote and let the Democrats inch ahead—but the base has to continue tuning in and then it has to turn out. That depends on President Obama—and on progressive Democrats deciding that right now the stakes in this campaign are more important than the reflex instinct to complain.
The Obama of 2008 has returned with a message and a mission. Although the Blue Dogs are slinking away—in some cases toward their own defeat—he’s carried the cause of tax fairness straight into the district of Republican House Whip Eric Cantor. While the NBC/Wall Street Journal findings show a close to even split on extending the lower rates for the highest income, a presidential push can change that by posing a stark choice—tax cuts for the middle class versus the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. And this can animate a larger theme that will mobilize the party’s natural base: that Democrats fight for you, while Republicans are for the few, the comfortable, and the privileged.
The president’s also back on campus again—this week at the University of Wisconsin, where 26,000 came out to cheer him as he told them in no uncertain terms that they needed to show up in November. He’ll have to sound that appeal again and again. In the NBC/Wall Street Journal data, only 35 percent of young voters express high interest in the midterm election; they haven’t yet followed Hispanics and African-Americans into the likely voter column.
Obama can change the political weather by a few degrees—and that might be just enough. In the process, he has to inspire and not just scold disappointed progressives. But he has a point when he says that it’s “inexcusable” for Democrats to skip the midterms: “People need to buck up.”
They do, for the hopes they rallied to in 2008 are now in their hands as much as his.
Those who think the stimulus was too small—that Paul Krugman was right—need to remember that according to the Economic Policy Institute, the recent GOP “Pledge” would destroy 1 million jobs. They need to realize that the Republican plan is to drag out or destroy the recovery—and then they need to vote.
Those disappointed by the failure to enact a public option should think about the Republican commitment to “repeal and replace” health reform—and the reality that “replace” means placing the health insurance industry back in charge.
Those who are dissatisfied with the slow pace of progress on gay rights, global warming, or Guantánamo should ask themselves whether they are prepared to allow the enemies of equality, the environment, and civil liberties to take control.
Those angered by the Obama decision to persist in Afghanistan—while setting a deadline—surely do not prefer the advocates of endless war. How could they permit them to capture the Congress?
The president’s out there—finally. The Congress will soon be out of Washington—thankfully. The polls are moving—gradually—as the likely voter sample shifts. By defining the stakes, Barack Obama can accelerate that movement. There’s just enough time, assuming Democrats, especially the young, are sensible enough to understand that we are past the excitement of 2008. There is more to achieving change than standing, cheering, and voting for it once, and then standing aside.
It’s Rove time for Democrats. Rally the base—and save the Congress.
I hope he is right, but I am not sure about his past history of being right … .
Apparently Bill Maher really doesn’t want to see the Republicans back in office any more than I do. Maher channeled his inner “Barry Whitehouse” and reminded everyone why as aggravated as many of us might be with the Democrats right now, we don’t need to be putting the Republicans back in office and had a bit of fun while doing it.
"Maher: Why can’t the Democrats get props for what they’ve achieved? Oh, I know… I know. Obama’s black. He’s used to being denied credit. And there’s nothing wrong with being hard on him. He’s the president and it’s our job to keep him honest.
But when it comes to voting, when we only have two choices, you’ve got to grow up and realize there’s a big difference between a disappointing friend and a deadly enemy. Of course the Democrats are disappointing. That’s what makes them Democrats. If they were any more frustrating they’d be your relatives.
But in this country they are all that stands between you and darkest night. You know why their symbol is the letter “D”? Because it’s a grade that means good enough, but just barely.
You know why the Republican symbol is “R”? Because it’s the noise a pirate makes when he robs you and feeds you to a shark.
The truth is the Democratic base is still way larger than the Republican base. The reason why they’re losing is something called the enthusiasm gap. Yeah. And the voters that Obama and the Democrats have really lost are the women. Women like Velma Hart are just not getting enough love from the president.
So tonight I thought I’d try to make their fantasies come true and speak to you as Barack Obama’s alter ego, Barry Whitehouse.”
Obama: GOP Wants To Shut Down Clean Energy
In this weekend’s YouTube address, President Obama touted his administration’s work in promoting solar power projects in the United States.
"Now there are some in Washington who want to shut them down. In fact, in the Pledge they recently released, the Republican leadership is promising to scrap all the incentives for clean energy projects, including those currently underway - even with all the jobs and potential that they hold," said Obama. "This doesn’t make sense for our economy. It doesn’t make sense for Americans who are looking for jobs. And it doesn’t make sense for our future. To go backwards and scrap these plans means handing the competitive edge to China and other nations. It means that we’ll grow even more dependent on foreign oil. And, at a time of economic hardship, it means forgoing jobs we desperately need. In fact, shutting down just this one project would cost about a thousand jobs."
In this weekend’s Republican address, Senate Minority Mitch McConnell attacked Democrats for not taking action to stop the expiration of the Bush tax cuts.
McConnell: GOP Doesn’t Think Anyone Should Get A Tax Hike
“That’s why I proposed a bill last month that would extend current law and prevent any of these tax hikes from taking place, S.3773, the Tax Hike Prevention Act. Unfortunately, Democrats weren’t interested,” said McConnell. “In the final days of the session, they had other priorities. And whenever they were asked about this looming tax hike, they just blamed the Republicans. They said that Republicans will be to blame for some people getting a tax hike because we didn’t think anyone should get a tax hike. Now, I don’t get that, either.”
Thousands Gather In DC In Support Of Dem Agenda
The Associated Press reports: “Thousands of people flocked to the Lincoln Memorial for a rally Saturday organized by labor and civil rights groups, hoping to show support for the Democratic agenda in the face of expected GOP election gains next month. More than 400 organizations, including faith, environmental and gay rights groups, sponsored the ‘One Nation Working Together’ demonstration on the same end of the National Mall where a month ago tea party activists met to hear conservative commentator Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin.”
Dems, GOP Recalibrate Strategy A Month To Election
The Associated Press reports: “In the one-month dash to Election Day, both parties are zeroing in on races they have the best chances of winning, recalibrating strategies and shifting advertising money by the day. The state of play could change repeatedly between now and Nov. 2. Democrats are especially worried about House districts in the economically troubled Midwest, and their chances of picking up GOP-held Senate seats have dwindled.”
White House Ponders Post-Election Outlook
The New York Times reports: “Now that President Obama has put the drama of Rahm Emanuel’s departure as chief of staff behind him, his White House is preparing for a very different relationship with Congress after the midterm elections, when Republicans are expected to gain strength and more top advisers are likely to call it quits. Even before Mr. Emanuel decided to leave to run for mayor of Chicago, the new interim chief of staff, Pete Rouse, had begun what White House officials are calling a ‘two-year organizational review’ to guide post-election personnel decisions. In addition to reshaping the staff, officials say, Mr. Rouse is thinking about how to reshape the Obama agenda once Washington has a new political landscape.”
DeMint Targets Senate Colleagues
The Hill reports: “Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) is planning to wage a television campaign against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and other Democratic colleagues. The Senate Conservatives Fund, a political action committee that DeMint helms, has produced an anti-Reid television ad and will raise money to launch it in Nevada…DeMint’s bold foray is certain to shock some of his colleagues because senators almost never wage direct political attacks against each other.”
"And, as an originalist, Scalia argues that the idea that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment protects women’s rights is a "modern invention", because he says, in 1868 when it was written, "Nobody thought it was directed against sex discrimination". Evidently, back then, women hadn’t been invented yet. (Made Do With Steam-Powered Friction Pump)
Plus, the 14th Amendment was created to protect the rights of newly freed slaves. That’s why it strictly limits equal protection under the law to “All persons born or naturalized in the United States…” So all Scalia is saying is that women aren’t persons.
Before all you minorities demand that Scalia recognize your equal rights, just ask yourself, were people like me living in America in the mid-19th century? And if not, put a cork in it. Because our longest serving Supreme Court Justice is still living in 1868.”
America, the Greatest Country God ever gave Man, was built on three bedrock principles: Freedom. Liberty. And Fear — that someone might take our Freedom and Liberty. But now, there are dark, optimistic forces trying to take away our Fear — forces with salt and pepper hair and way more Emmys than they need. They want to replace our Fear with reason. But never forget — “Reason” is just one letter away from “Treason.” Coincidence? Reasonable people would say it is, but America can’t afford to take that chance.
So join The Rev. Sir Dr.
Stephen T. Colbert, D.F.A. on October 30th for the “
March to Keep Fear Alive"™ in
Washington DC. Pack an overnight bag with five extra sets of underwear — you’re going to need them. Because, to Restore Truthiness we must always… Shh!!! What’s that sound?! I think there’s someone behind you! Run!
Watch Stephen give the marching orders on
updates and rally information.
"Introducing White House Whiteboard. In this first edition, Austan Goolsbee, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers here at the White House, tackles the tax cut fight and what it means that Congressional Republicans are "holding middle class tax cuts hostage" as the President has said."
Jon Stewart’s planned rally to ‘restore sanity’ just got a big endorsement from the White House. AP Photo
RICHMOND — President Barack Obama seemed to offer a ringing endorsement Wednesday for “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart’s upcoming Rally to Restore Sanity – although he didn’t get the name quite right.
"I was amused — Jon Stewart, you know, the host of The Daily Show, apparently he’s going to host a rally called something like Americans in favor of a return to sanity, or something like that," Obama told a crowd gathered around a living room in a comfortable suburban home. "And his point was 70 percent of the people – it doesn’t matter what political affiliation –70 percent of folks are just like you. They go about their business. They work hard every day. They’re looking after their families. They don’t go around calling people names. They don’t make stuff up.”
The session was Obama’s final – and friendliest – small-group suburban discussion that took him through Ohio, New Mexico and Iowa. White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton told reporters on Air Force One the president will likely field a few more rounds of casual, unscripted lawn-chair gatherings in the coming months.
The goal of the gatherings is to give the president an intimate forum to discuss his policies, including education reform, the sweeping health care overhaul, and the economy. But the groups don’t always toss Obama softball questions: in New Mexico, one woman asked Obama to describe why he is a Christian, and in Iowa several members asked about government intrusion, challenged his plan to tax the rich and asked him how he intends to eliminate poverty.
In Richmond, the president discussed the rancorous political discourse in Washington: it must be fixed.
Both the right and left have used the president as a political punching bag: conservative TV host Glenn Beck once called Obama a racist who hates whites and accused him of embracing a “perversion of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” while liberal MSNBC host Rachel Maddow repeatedly shreds the administration for its muddled stance on the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning gays from serving openly in the armed forces.
But Obama takes particular issue with Fox News, home to some of his fiercest critics like Beck and Sean Hannity.
In a Rolling Stone interview this week, said Fox News is “part of a tradition” of a free American press with a “very clear, undeniable point of view.” But he said the right-leaning network has “a point of view that I think is ultimately destructive” for the nation. He also said in the interview that Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News, is more concerned with profit rather than journalistic standards or ethics: “I suspect that if you ask Mr. Murdoch what his number-one concern is, it’s that Fox is very successful.”
Obama told his living-room audience that pundits who say outrageous, provocative things – liberals as well as conservatives – are being rewarded with more TV time and book deals. But he noted that Republicans made a tactical decision to block his agenda no matter what, and “from just a raw, political point of view, it’s been a pretty successful strategy.”
Reflecting his 2004 DNC convention speech that launched him to the national stage, Obama reiterated that there aren’t “red states” and “blue states.”
"I believe that so profoundly," he said.
"There’s really no difference between the intolerant fundamentalist bigots of one religion from those of another religion."
The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee today approved the “New START” nuclear arms control treaty, sending it to the full chamber for ratification, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, Sept. 15).
(Sep. 16) - Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.), left, and ranking panel Republican Richard Lugar (Ind.), shown last year. The committee today signed off on ratification of a new U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control treaty, which now awaits approval from the full Senate (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images).
The vote in favor of the U.S.-Russian pact was 14-4, with three GOP lawmakers supporting the resolution of ratification: panel ranking member Richard Lugar (Ind.) and Senators Bob Corker (Tenn.) and Johnny Isakson (Ga.).
U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in April signed the agreement. The deal requires the former Cold War adversaries to each cut their deployed strategic nuclear weapons to 1,550 warheads, down from the maximum of 2,200 allowed by 2012 under a 2002 agreement. They must both also restrict their active nuclear delivery vehicles to 700, with another 100 platforms allowed in reserve.
The Senate should act on the treaty “as soon as possible,” said committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) He said a vote was likely to happen after November’s midterm elections.
At least eight Republican senators would need to support the treaty to achieve the 67 votes required for ratification.
"I personally believe we will have the votes to ratify this," Kerry said. In Moscow, there is little doubt that Russian lawmakers would sign off on the pact.
The ratification resolution was prepared by Lugar, who sought to address GOP concerns about the treaty that were not resolved by a draft resolution written by Kerry (Agence France-Presse/Yahoo!News, Sept. 16).
Republican senators have expressed concerns that the treaty would constrain U.S. missile defense activities and could allow Moscow room to breach its obligations, the Associated Press reported. They also pressed the Obama administration to ramp up funding to ensure the viability of the remaining U.S. nuclear complex.
Committee member Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) made it clear during the hearing that his concerns persisted.
"If we are going to move ahead with the commitment not to protect the people of the United States, I think everyone in this country ought to know it," he said.
However, DeMint went on to negotiate behind closed doors with Kerry, Lugar and others a new version of a missile defense amendment that the South Carolina Republican had offered. The committee passed that compromise amendment in a unanimous voice vote, though DeMint was not present for that decision or for the vote on the full ratification resolution.
Kerry said the pact is crucial to the nation’s security. Supporters have also noted that placing the treaty into force would allow the United States to once again conduct verification monitoring of Russia’s nuclear force. Such inspections were halted following the December 2009 expiration of the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Desmond Butler, Associated Press/Yahoo!News, Sept. 16).
“By ratifying this treaty, we will limit Russia’s nuclear arsenal,” Kerry said. “We will regain the ability to inspect their nuclear forces. And we will redouble international support for our nonproliferation efforts. At a moment when the world has imposed sanctions on Iran for its nuclear ambitions, this treaty validates American leadership and moves the world an important step closer to reducing the threat from nuclear weapons” (Peter Baker, New York Times, Sept. 16).
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the New START treaty in a 14-4 vote. Three Republicans voted with Democrats — a sign that Obama may get the votes needed for final passage. But it is unclear whether the full Senate will consider the treaty this year.
Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the treaty in April. It would shrink the limit on strategic warheads by about a third from the current ceiling of 2,200. Some Republicans fear the treaty doesn’t include sufficient safeguards to prevent Russian cheating.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration was poised for a victory on one of its top foreign policy goals Thursday as a Senate panel appeared likely to recommend approval of a U.S.-Russia nuclear arms control treaty with a bipartisan majority.
It was not clear that the administration has the votes or the time to get the treaty, known as New START, to the Senate floor for ratification this year. Hopes for passage improved this week, however, as a second Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee looked likely to support it.
As he opened a meeting to consider the treaty, committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., cast the accord as essential for U.S. national security. “The stakes are enormous,” he said.
Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the treaty in April. It would shrink the limit on strategic warheads to 1,550 for each country, down about a third from the current ceiling of 2,200. It also would implement changes in current procedures that allow both countries to inspect each other’s arsenals and verify compliance.
Democrats had delayed a committee vote on the treaty as they sought broader support from Republicans. They will need at least eight Republican votes on the Senate floor to have the two-thirds majority needed for ratification.
Some Republicans say the pact does not establish adequate procedures for ensuring that Russia abides by its terms. They also fear that Moscow could use the treaty to limit U.S. missile defense plans. Some Republicans also are tying their support to assurances that Democrats will provide more money to maintain and improve existing nuclear warheads.
But the treaty’s prospects received a boost this week when a Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Corker, endorsed an amendment from the committee’s senior Republican, Sen. Richard Lugar, aimed at overcoming his party’s reticence on the treaty.
But some Republicans weren’t persuaded and Tuesday’s debate became heated at times. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., cited the missile defense concerns and said the treaty would undermine U.S. security.
"If we are going to move ahead with the commitment not to protect the people of the United States, I think everyone in this country ought to know it,” said DeMint.
That provoked the ire of Kerry and other Democrats, who said that all the lawmakers were committed to protecting the American people.
Democrats say the treaty could be considered by the full Senate before the November congressional election. But given the intense partisan atmosphere in Washington in the run-up to the vote, Democratic prospects may be better in a “lame-duck” session that would take place after the elections, but before the new Congress is seated. Passage could be more difficult under a new Congress because Republicans are expected to pick up seats in the election.
The administration has held the treaty up as a sign that its efforts to improve relations with Russia have borne fruit. Failure to ratify the treaty or a long delay would represent a significant foreign policy setback.
The American public is asking a fundamental question: Will the New START Treaty increase U.S. national security and reduce nuclear threats?
We began working together to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons in the 1980s, when the Cold War created a threatening environment that could lead to an all-out nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union. It was a very real possibility.
Today, the nuclear threat has changed. The possibility of nuclear war has declined, but the chances of nuclear weapons being used by a terrorist group, or a rogue nation in a regional war, are increasing. These threats are fueled by the spread of nuclear weapons, materials and technology around the world.
With this new context, the goal of nuclear threat reduction grows ever more vital to U.S. security. After we reviewed the treaty and the testimony presented by experts, we now believe the American public can, with confidence, support this agreement.
It is likely to improve the security of the United States, and our allies, and lead to even greater international cooperation on nuclear risk reduction. The long, careful process to produce this treaty should increase cooperation on missile defense capabilities, which can provide an important measure of protection against an actual attack, or an accidental firing.
The New START treaty is relatively straightforward: The treaty sets lower ceilings on deployed strategic nuclear warheads and long-range ballistic missiles and bombers, with important provisions to verify the new terms. In our view, this represents a crucial step forward in reducing the nuclear threat.
We find three important reasons for support:
First, with the expiration of the 1991 START Treaty last December, there is no longer any agreement for monitoring strategic nuclear forces on both sides. The treaty’s provisions for data exchange and on-site inspection is likely to provide valuable information on Russian nuclear capabilities that we would not have otherwise. It is also likely to increase transparency and confidence on both sides — improving predictability, stability and security.
Second, New START reaffirms the long-standing principle of achieving greater nuclear reductions in the two nations that still control more than 90 percent of global nuclear inventories. This principle underpins our nonproliferation diplomacy worldwide, and helps open the door to even greater cooperation with other nations on the most pressing nuclear threat issues, including nuclear terrorism and the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea. Going forward, Washington and Moscow must increase our work together to further reduce nuclear threats.
Third, Washington and Moscow should expand use of the existing Nuclear Risk Reduction Centers – which we, and other members of Congress, established with President Ronald Reagan to further reduce nuclear threats.
For example, to improve both nations’ early warning capabilities, the centers could exchange data on global missile launches. Other nations could be integrated into this system. It could provide the basis for a joint initiative involving Russia, the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on a missile defense architecture for Europe that would help address other key issues, like tactical nuclear weapons vulnerable to theft by terrorists. Indeed, when the centers were proposed, they were envisioned to help prevent catastrophic nuclear terrorism. These initiatives can go forward with a New START Treaty.
Together, we have spent more than 50 years in the Senate working on national security issues, and our confidence in our nation’s treaty ratification process now leads us to urge the America public to support the New START Treaty.
Critics have expressed understandable concerns that the treaty might undermine the U.S. missile defense program, citing the preamble language on the relationship between strategic offensive and defensive arms; or the treaty’s prohibition on using existing strategic launchers for placement of missile defense interceptors, or Russian assertions of a right to withdraw.
There have also been legitimate issues raised about the importance of a strong U.S. commitment to maintaining the safety, security and reliability of our own weapons, given the treaty’s reductions and the continuing need for a strong nuclear deterrent in light of today’s threats.
The defense secretary, the leaders of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the general in charge of our missile defense program have all testified that New START is not a threat to U.S. missile defenses. Their statements are an important step in addressing the missile defense issue, as is the administration’s proposed 10-year nuclear stockpile plan.
These are important issues that must now be considered under our constitutional process and monitored in the years to come by the executive and legislative branches so that the treaty will merit broad and sustained bipartisan support.
The American public can be confident that this treaty enhances our national security.