Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) took dead aim at President Obama in a floor speech Wednesday outlining his opposition to New START, calling the arms reduction treaty with Russia a sign of American weakness.
He began by attacking the “ambiguous” preamble, which he worried could limit the United States’ ability to develop a missile defense capability. He noted that Obama had written a letter to Senators expressing his “unilateral opinion” that it did not. Other Republicans Senator like Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) had hailed this as a reassuring commitment. Cornyn dismissed it as meaningless.
“Treaty obligations are not unilateral declarations, they are bilateral agreements,” he said. “A misunderstanding on this import issue of missile defense could allow either side to withdraw from treaty.” Cornyn urged a return to the negotiating table to make sure there would be no misunderstanding with the Russians. That way, he said: “We would know up front…their sincere intentions.”
Beyond that, he said the treaty wasn’t all that great to begin with. “Where are the concessions made to us in this treaty?” he asked. “What in this treaty is good deal for the United States?”
Cornyn spent the majority of his speech lambasting Obama for pursuing an “idealist and naive” foreign policy that has emboldened our enemies while alienating our allies, and for frequently offering up damaging concessions like the ones in New START.
“This treaty is just another example, another symptom, of a foreign policy that sends a message of timidity, even ambivalence, not only about our own security, but about Amercia’s leadership role in a dangerous world,” Cornyn said.
The Texas Republican skewered the “high expectations” Obama (and his supporters/fawners) set for his presidency – by promising to sit down with rogue leaders “without preconditions” (we never happened), declaring himself a “citizen of the world” during a speech in Berlin, and winning the Nobel Peace Prize for creating “a new climate in international politics.”
Cornyn noted that all along, President Obama’s chief foreign policy objective (and primary impetus for New START) has been “a world without nuclear weapons,” which Cornyn called a “fantastic notion that has no basis in the real world.” He worried how our allies and adversaries alike would continue to respond to a president who lives in a “fantasy world…who travels abroad and apologizes for American strength.”
“I fear that the New START treaty will serve as another data point in a narrative of weakness, pursuing diplomacy for its own sake, or indulging in utopians dream of a world without nuclear weapons, divorced from hard reality,” he said.
As for the Russians, Cornyn said they have only responded to America concessions with contempt. “Russian leaders have the temerity to lecture and attempt to intimidate the United States Senate from discharging our constitutional responsibilities and [w]e should not succumb,” he said.
Cornyn said his colleagues, especially those on the Republican side, were asking the wrong questions in determining whether ratification was a good idea. “Instead of asking ourselves the question: ‘Why not ratify? What’s the harm?’ I would suggest that the better question is ‘Why should we?’” he said.
“I urge my colleague to vote against this treaty not because I don’t care about the message it will send to Russia and other nations but because I do care about that message, and its time we stop sending a message of weakness that only encourages our adversaries.”