On the signing in Prague of the new START treaty:
It’s mostly symbolism. The Russians have a nuclear capacity that is so old, obsolete, and decaying that they probably aren’t going to have to remove any of their weapons platforms to get to 700. We are.
The real problem I think is … what the president of Russia said in his remarks after the signing. He emphasized again and again that the validity of the treaty that he signed today hinges on the maintenance of the status quo on defensive weapons. He said, in fact, [that] it’s a legal principle that the circumstances that are the basis of the treaty have to remain unchanged.
What that implies is if the United States does something new on missile defense — for example, if it were to reintroduce the systems it had originally intended to put in the Czech Republic and Poland, say, to reintroduce it in Romania or elsewhere — that would be a step that would undo the status quo and it would make the treaty null and void. That is the implication of what he said. The Russians would walk away.
And since we’re the ones who are going to have to be dismantling our missiles under the treaty — offensive weapons under this treaty — because we have a robust nuclear deterrent and the Russians’ is old and a lot more decrepit, we will have dismantled a lot of weapons. And the Russians reserve the right to walk away if we make them unhappy on missile defenses.
On President Obama’s claim that he’s reset relations with Russia such that it will accede to sanctions on Iran:
First of all, it’s a fatuous claim. The reason that relations had drifted, which Obama again repeated today — he makes it sound as if it was Bush who for some reason alienated the Russians. It’s because Russia invaded Georgia and took over two of its provinces, detached them and annexed them illegally.
That’s why relations were cooled. Obama reset and said, OK, you get a mulligan on that one and I’ll pretend it never happened. East Europeans know what happened, and they worry about it.
On Iran, we got very little. We got the president of Russia saying again in the remarks afterwards that he’s not ruling out the chance of the Security Council … revisiting the issue again. That is not exactly a ringing endorsement of sanctions that bite.
On the opposition of some conservatives to filling out the census:
Politically speaking, it’s stupid if a conservative doesn’t fill it out. For obvious reasons. It will exclude a whole number of communities from the benefits of being in the census.
But I think you can make a principled argument on this. [The census] is a sacred institution. It’s not a recent creation. It’s not an individual mandate shoved down our throat by a narrow majority in the House and Senate. It is in the Constitution and it has a purpose.
Now, I don’t think it’s a place [where] we ought to adjudicate all the social arguments we have — over gay marriage, over race, affirmative action, et cetera. I recoil when I see the race question on the census. I don’t like it. But those arguments ought to be made outside of the census.
You want to reshape the census next time? Yes. But when you receive the form, it is what it is. And I think you have a duty to fill it out as a citizen.