Friday, November 19, 2010

Obama Forces Showdown With G.O.P. over Arms Pact to show he still has the power

Whats the rush if it happens now or next year. If the treaty is a net benefit to America and its military so be it. Right now its just Obama looking for something to hang his hat on while the media waits to triumph that he is back.

Just two weeks after an election that left him struggling to find his way forward, President Obama has decided to confront Senate Republicans in a make-or-break battle over arms control that could be an early test of his mettle heading into the final two years of his term.

He is pushing for a vote on a signature issue despite long odds, daring Republicans to block an arms-control treaty at the risk of disrupting relations with Russia and the international coalition that opposes Iran’s nuclear program. If he succeeds, Mr. Obama will demonstrate strength following the midterm election debacle. If he fails, he will reinforce the perception at home and abroad that he is a weakened president.

“It’s really high stakes,” said Geoffrey Kemp, a former national security aide to President Ronald Reagan and a scholar at the Nixon Center, a research group in Washington. “I would say it’s the biggest gamble he’s taken so far, certainly on foreign policy.”

After months of quiet negotiations blew up this week, Mr. Obama on Thursday escalated ratification of the agreement, the so-called New Start treaty, into a public showdown, enlisting former Republican officials and assigning Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to work on it “day and night.” An allied group, the American Values Network, kicked off a television and e-mail campaign.

“It is a national security imperative that the United States ratify the New Start treaty this year,” said Mr. Obama, flanked by Henry A. Kissinger, James A. Baker III and Brent Scowcroft, all of whom served Republican presidents. “There is no higher national security priority for the lame-duck session of Congress.”

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