In 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower and the GOP used Democratic “coddling” of communists and the veiled threat of nuclear weapons to end the Korean War as tools to defeat Adlai Stevenson. In 1960, John F. Kennedy used the “missile gap” with the Soviet Union — America actually had more ICBMs than Russia — to help defeat Richard M. Nixon.
Republicans then made the buildup of nuclear weapons against the Soviet threat a hallmark of Ronald Reagan’s campaigns. Back in 1980, when President Jimmy Carter proposed building 200 MX ICBMs and putting them on railroad cars to deter a Soviet first strike, the Republicans said that was not enough. Once in power, however, the Reagan administration built 100 MXs in fixed silos and said not to worry, that there were two other legs to the nuclear triad: strategic submarines and bombers.
More recently, George W. Bush capitalized on Americans’ fears after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to help win reelection in 2004. That victory came in spite of the White House’s use of
cherry-picked intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq.
As Norman J. Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann said Sunday in a Washington Post essay on political gridlock, it’s time for the press to stop just presenting “evenhanded, unfiltered opposing views” and ask: “Which politician is telling the truth?”
Thursday’s GOP conference call seemed a good place to start.
It was designed as a counterstrike against Vice President Biden’s foreign policy speech — before he even made it.
One Republican on the call was John F. Lehman, a secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration, member of the 9/11 Commission and current co-chairman of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s defense panel.
Lehman offered questionable facts to support his claim that, under Obama, the United States is “abdicating leadership for keeping stability in the world.”
He said the administration “is proposing reductions down to 300 nuclear weapons.” That is a warped version of a news story that the White House — in studying arms-reduction talks with the Russians — has asked the Pentagon for the implication of three alternatives: keeping warheads at the currently agreed level with Moscow of 1,550 deployed, cutting to 1,000, or dropping to anywhere from 300 to 800 warheads. The administration is not proposing 300 warheads in any offer.
That did not stop Lehman.
He told reporters that foreign military leaders are looking at, “in effect, unilateral disarmament that is going on with the Obama administration now with the latest budget having proposed cuts of over $1 trillion to our defenses.”