THE sweeping Democratic midterm losses last week raise serious questions for President Obama and a lame-duck Congress. Voters want government brought closer to the vision the framers outlined in the Constitution, and the first test could be the fate of the flawed New Start arms control treaty, which was signed by President Obama and President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia last spring but awaits ratification. The Senate should heed the will of the voters and either reject the treaty or amend it so that it doesn’t weaken our national defense.
The treaty’s supporters are likely to try to rush it through the Senate before Congress adjourns. They worry that since the Republicans have gained six seats, New Start will fail to get the required two-thirds majority when the new Senate convenes in January.
Senators should be in no hurry. The Obama administration’s main strategy in this two-minute drill is likely to emphasize a “resolution of ratification” that the Foreign Relations Committee approved along with the treaty in September. But that resolution, which supposedly addresses concerns about missile defense and modernization of the nuclear arsenal, is a Trojan horse. Any senators who fall for this ploy will not only imperil our safety, they will also undermine the Senate’s formidable powers in the treaty-making process.
Yeah, the same two guys (and an animate collection of facial hair) that said the plenary power of the Presidency trumped all during a time of war and argued that the President had by definition of the office the power to conduct unrestricted war are now saying that the Senate is the most important government body when it comes to foreign policy.
I'll let that sink in for a minute. I was unaware that Bolton's mustache could type, let alone ghost write columns either...but there you are.
Senators cannot take these warranties seriously — they are not a part of the text of the treaty itself. As Eugene Rostow, a former under secretary of state, put it, such reservations and understandings have “the same legal effect as a letter from my mother.” They are mere policy statements that attempt to influence future treaty interpretation. They do not have the force of law; they do not bind the president or future Congresses. The Constitution’s supremacy clause makes the treaty’s text the “law of the land.”
Unlike acts of Congress, treaties reorient the balance of power toward the president. His understandings and interpretations of treaties typically have (and should) predominate, as President Ronald Reagan demonstrated in the 1980s debate over the meaning of the antiballistic missile treaty. The president can, after all, completely withdraw from a treaty on his own: President George W. Bush terminated the antiballistic missile treaty in 2002 and President Jimmy Carter ended the Taiwan mutual defense treaty in 1980, both without Senate consent or judicial complaint.
To prevent New Start from gravely impairing America’s nuclear capacity, the Senate must ignore the resolution of ratification and demand changes to the treaty itself. These should include deleting the preamble’s language linking nuclear arsenals to defense systems, and inserting new language distinguishing conventional strike capacities from nuclear launching systems or deleting limits on launchers entirely. Congress should pass a new law financing the testing and development of new warhead designs before approving New Start.
So yes, to recap Bolton, Bolton's mustache, and John Yoo freely admit that A) the President has all the power when it comes to treaties (and cite examples of such) but B) they think the Senate should ignore that power and do what the three of them want anyway by passing a law that basically scuttles the treaty anyway, so please ignore all that plenary powers of the Office of the President that we pushed with Bush.
For this awesome level of intellectual consistency, Bolton, Bolton's mustache, and John Yoo continue to be treated as Serious Policy Wonks and get columns in the NY Times.