October 12, 1999 6:25PM
CTBT: NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT
Senate Republicans have been debating whether to kill the Comprehensive
Test Ban Treaty outright or to reach an agreement with the president to
take no action on the treaty until the next Congress and presidency. Some
opponents of the treaty, such as Pete Domenici of New Mexico, argue that
voting down the treaty would undermine confidence in American foreign
Presumably our allies, or at least their policymakers, are aware of the
Senate's role in ratifying treaties and that this has not historically
been a rubber stamp (see Versailles, Treaty of). It would undermine
confidence if our allies reached the conclusion that partisan political
maneuvering rendered America incapable of constancy; but since the
objections to the treaty are not narrowly political in nature, this would
be the wrong conclusion for them to draw from a treaty defeat. The
administration is encouraging them to draw that conclusion with its
charges of partisanship. The alternative, meanwhile, is that U.S. policy
remains up for grabs, which can hardly encourage confidence in our
The argument about confidence is, in truth, a rationalization for low
political self-confidence: Some Republicans are worried that voting down
the treaty would hurt them in the next election. That's the reason they
want assurances from Clinton that he won't ask for a vote in the middle of
2000. Polls show that a large majority of Americans think it would be nice
if nobody tested nukes, especially when the pollster doesn't point out the
possible downsides of the treaty.
Since national security considerations point against the treaty, the polls
should of course be ignored. But in this case they're not even useful for
base political calculations. Everybody knows that voters don't care about
foreign policy these days; it's the subject of a thousand hand-wringing
columns by earnest pundits. Nobody is going to lose an election over the
treaty. Supporters of the treaty have every reason to want a delay, since
they would lose a vote held today. Opponents, on the other hand, have no
good reason to wait. The Senate should vote this treaty down. Tonight.
Straw polls by grassroots organizations don't often reveal much about a
presidential candidate's appeal. At the Alabama GOP straw poll, remember,
Alan Keyes and Orrin Hatch were the top two finishers. Seen any
Keyes-Hatch 2000 bumper sticker lately?
What straw polls can do, however, is reveal a weakness. The one in Iowa
prompted Lamar Alexander to get out of the race, and it's hard to believe
Dan Quayle would have exited, even with his fundraising problems, if he
had come in, say, third place.
Pat Buchanan also had a poor showing in Iowa, but perhaps that can be
explained by his late start. More difficult to justify, however, is his
second-place finish in balloting at the National Federation of Republican
Assemblies in Kansas City on Sunday. No candidate won an endorsement,
which would have required a two-thirds majority, but Steve Forbes came
close with 62 percent. Buchanan was a distant second with 38 percent.
Buchanan used to clean up at this type of event, full of heartland
conservatives searching for a hero. Now he is an also-ran among their
ranks, surviving on the leftover fumes of previous campaigns. As they die
out, the Buchanan phenomenon will increasingly look like a thing of the
past, not the future.
YOUR GOVERNMENT AT WORK
(OR HOW TO KILL THREE HOURS ON THE HILL)
A bemused congressional staffer forwarded the following e-mail invitation
to us last Thursday:
Fire Extinguisher Awareness Course
Longworth Office Building Park
BBQ Lunch for all participants
Ramesh Ponnuru - Senior Editor
John J. Miller - National Political Reporter
Kate Dwyer - Editorial Associate
For a selection of recent Washington Bulletins
If you would like to receive the Washington Bulletin via e-mail, please
send an e-mail message to email@example.com. The first line in the body
of the message should read: "subscribe washingtonbulletin".
In order to ensure that you are not accidentally subscribed, you will
receive a reply message with a confirmation number, to which you must
reply to complete the subscription process.
To unsubscribe leave the subject line blank and have the first line in the body of the message read: "unsubscribe washingtonbulletin".