“Please do your duty to your country”

Richard Lugar’s plea, rejected by his Republican colleagues. Has the nation ever had such an unpatriotic major party?

That’s loyal Republican Richard Lugar’s plea to his Republican colleagues in the Senate to ratify the New START teaty. The answer back seems to be a resounding “No.” Brent Scowcroft, another solid Republican, says he can’t figure out what goal Kyl & Co. might be pursuing by their opposition to the treaty other than the goal of denying the President a foreign policy victory. (A secondary goal might be squeezing Obama for even more wasteful government spending on warheads we’ll never actually use.)

If patriotism means the willingness to put, in John McCain’s words, “country first,” then the party that just won the midterm elections may be the least patriotic party since … well, since the Republican isolationists almost let Hitler win World War II.

I perfectly understand why the few remaining moderate Republican politicians don’t switch parties. They’ve made their choice. What I don’t understand is the persistence of moderate Republican voters. Your party is irrevocably in the grip of a group of reckless, cynical, and largely ignorant extremists. Time to go. Noisily.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

36 thoughts on ““Please do your duty to your country””

  1. The appropriate response is, "I'll vote yes… In January."

    The treaty was signed April 8th. The Democratic leadership could have brought it to a vote in April. In May. In June. In July. In August. In September. In October.

    Now you want it voted on in a lame duck session, by Senators who were thrown out of office by the voters. And you're complaining about people wanting the vote delayed until the new members take office.

    Why aren't you blaming your own leadership for not holding a vote before the election?

    Why do you insist it be voted on during the lame duck session? Because you think it might not pass if the new members took office? Well, tough. That's precisely the worst reason for anything to be voted on during a lame duck session. I have no sympathy AT ALL.

  2. I get that a lame duck session is able to get less done. But I don't get the idea that a lame duck session *shouldn't* try to get stuff done. They're being paid to work, let them work. Otherwise, shorten the lame duck session to a week or two.

  3. Lugar: "Please do your duty to your country"


    Party first.

    Lobbyists second.

    Ideology third.

    Country fourth.

    Kleiman: "What I don’t understand is the persistence of moderate Republican voters… Time to go. Noisily."


    Treaty? What Treaty?

    They aren't even paying attention Mark.

    Most can't even name their Senators or even the founding principles of their religion.

    In short: Democracy by auto-pilot.

    Surely there is a networking/human law at work here:

    As information becomes more readily available…

    public ignorance rises and a disdain for actual knowledge increases.

    Are you ready for some football?

  4. I usually only look in here on occasion. They waited until after the vote because the Republicans filibustered literally everything that was being put on the table and they thought that it might be easier after the election. Obviously that is a political miscalculation. They still need to vote on it and get it done. If they can't do it, basically what it means is that the U.S. will have no verification of weapons systems in Russia, that the U.S. cannot be a reliable partner in any treaty and any other nation would be fools to make one with us and that the Russians will have no incentives to work with the U.S. in helping to isolate Iran etc. I was nuclear missile launch officer who worked on GLCMs which were removed in the 1980s by the INF treaty (which, like START, was also originally negotiated by Reagan). In one sense it's odd that the Republicans would trash Reagan's legacy, but in reality this is a Republican rebellion against the old consensus in support of treaties and negotiation. Instead Republicans seem to be seeking an end to treaty making in favor of some kind of belligerant autarchic (and frankly delusional) fortress USA approach to world affairs. If any nation does not go along with the U.S.'s wishes in theory we will just bomb them into submission. Basically we have become what we claimed to hate. Ultimately, this is deliberate sabotage of the U.S.'s foreign policy. There is no excuse for it and we will all eventually pay a price when nuclear weapons treaties become unenforceable and nukes make their way into the hands of our real enemies.

  5. Brett apparently does not understand that the Republicans have been stalling on this since July and that, since it always required at least eight GOP votes, there was no point in bringing it to the floor until those votes had been secured. He also, apparently, has not read the constitution, and believes that Congressional terms are set at 1.75 years rather than 2.

  6. Plus Brett, it would be illogical to hold the vote in January anyway.

    New members would want to do their duty to get educated on the treaty, it would have to go through committees again, etc.

    So call it April when it might come up for a vote.

  7. So, let me be clear on this: It, in fact, couldn't pass with the previous composition of the Senate. The impending composition of the Senate makes passage more difficult. Then why is it considered feasible to pass it now, during a lame duck session?

    The only reason I can think of, is that you expect some of the outgoing Senators who wouldn't have voted for the treaty when they still had to fear the voters' response to vote for it now that the voters have done their worst, and can't further punish them.

    That's exactly why lame duck sessions are generally a bad idea. You've got members of a nominally representative body voting who have already been rejected by the voters, and who might be inclined to vote in ways they KNOW the people they represent wouldn't like.

    No, I think I'm going to stick to my long standing position, that lame duck sessions are generally a bad idea, and should be restricted to actual emergencies. Which this isn't. We have, in the past, gone as long as 12 years without holding one, and the sky did not fall.

  8. Again, I applaud Brett's honesty. Like the Republicans he votes for, he sees this as a purely partisan matter, where the issue of national security simply doesn't arise. But he's prepared to say so. Note that he has no actual argument to make against ratification.

  9. Brett, you don't seem to understand. It couldn't pass the senate, not because of its content, but because the Republicans have, for crude political advantage, decided that nothing shall pass.

  10. "Brett, you don’t seem to understand. It couldn’t pass the senate, not because of its content, but because the Republicans have, for crude political advantage, decided that nothing shall pass."

    And, Brett, we are hoping that, now that the election is over, a few of those Republicans would put the interests of the country above the marginal political advantage.


  11. Nothing passed? News to me.

    Anon, I am as adamantly opposed to lame duck sessions with the Republicans in the dying majority, as with Democrats playing that role. One of the more annoying aspects of arguing with liberals is that they tend to attribute to everyone their own 'end justifies the means' mentality, to the point where they simply can't accept that anybody has procedural preferences independent of their preferred outcome in the immediate instance.

    I simply believe that lame duck sessions are a bad thing in a democracy, and particularly bad when the intervening election has changed the balance of power. They're nothing but an opportunity for repudiated political factions to engage in mischief.

  12. On some level, I don't disagree with that, Brett. We just don't think it's the same problem. You think the problem is having a lame duck session, which I agree with in theory but not this specific instance. Here, the problem is that the Republican Party has decided that it is to their advantage to play to the fears of a completely ignorant portion of the electorate, rather than put the additional knowledge that they have by reason of their position. You have a problem with a violation of the theory of parliamentary procedure. My problem is that the Republicans have decided to throw overboard the fundamental precept of representative government. The whole thing rests upon the idea that representatives will have more knowledge than the voters, by the simple fact that they can concentrate on it because it is their job. Without that, there's little justification for the entire American political structure. We're left trying to make a system work when one of the two major parties has decided to violate the basis for the system.

    And these are the people who call themselves constitutional originalists. They seem to have forgotten that one of the fundamental motivations for the Constitution was a fear of the ignorance and prejudices of the voters.

  13. I simply believe that lame duck sessions are a bad thing in a democracy, and particularly bad when the intervening election has changed the balance of power. They’re nothing but an opportunity for repudiated political factions to engage in mischief.

    Then my advice is to have inauguration day advanced to sometime shortly after the elections. Until that happens, lame duck sessions are an inherent part of the US system of government. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using them to pass legislation.

  14. "Until that happens, lame duck sessions are an inherent part of the US system of government.""

    According to Wikipedia, from 1940 to 2004, we had all of 15 lame duck sessions. We had 32 opportunities to have them. How can anything that happens less than half of the time when it might, be an inherent part of the US system of government?

    No, lame duck sessions are a choice, not an inherent feature, and were for quite some time a rare choice.

    I'm going to stand pat here: Lame duck sessions are, generally, a bad idea. And "It wouldn't pass if we brought it to a vote before the members who were just elected." is the absolute worst excuse possible for voting on something during such a session.

  15. An appeal to "country first" or patriotism is a double-edged sword; just ask Daniel Ellsberg of 'the Pentagon Papers' or Hillary Clinton.

    The State Department have asked 'wikileaks' to stop their release of secret cables that could endanger the security of the US, (and embarrass government officials)in cables that gave directives such as this, one. The National Humit Collection Directive, whereby

    US diplomats are alleged to have been requested by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to spy on the diplomats of other countries at the United Nations. That was the purpose of the "National Humint Collection Directive," which has been seen by SPIEGEL. The document was signed by Clinton and came into force on July 31, 2009.

    The information to be collected included personal credit card information, frequent flyer customer numbers, as well as e-mail and telephone accounts. In many cases the State Department also required "biometric information," "passwords" and "personal encryption keys." In the US, the term biometric information generally refers to fingerprints, passport photos and iris scans, among other things.

    No doubt, the diplomat's duty and patriotism was appealed to, in order to spy on their fellow UN diplomats.

  16. WTFM – Way Too F'n Meta Brett.

    It's either a treaty worth passing, or not. How it is passed matters quite a bit lower in priority.

    If it's a treaty worth passing, use the tools most likely to get it passed. If it's a lame duck, so be it.

    I believe the original notion was that putting it in the lame duck session would de-politicize it.

  17. Brett you're right. My real problem is that the Senate is completely dysfunctional. It needs to be abolished and we frankly need to have a larger, more representative House. That this treaty could not be passed in April, and now in a lame duck session, and absolutely certainly in January is a complete travesty and a shanda for America. The Senate essentially creates minority rule and while it has been useful at times it is now at the point of completely breaking America. Truly pathetic.

  18. No. People serve to the end of their terms. Chief Justice Marshall is example enough of the value from the fact that executive power continues until the end of the term, not just until what is effectively a vote of no-confidence.

  19. "If it’s a treaty worth passing, use the tools most likely to get it passed. If it’s a lame duck, so be it."

    That's what I said: The end justifies the means.

    "I believe the original notion was that putting it in the lame duck session would de-politicize it."

    By which was not meant, "Make less political", but instead, "Defeated members can vote without worrying about what the voters think." Which is a bad thing in a democracy.

    Charlie, I don't think we're ever going to agree on this.

  20. Brett, it's not nice to put words in my mouth. "End justifies the means" is quite a bit different in implication. That would imply assassination of opposing congressmen would be in order. You ignored my section "How it is passed matters quite a bit lower in priority."

    "Tools" means standard legislative pathways, and laws passed during the lame duck period are just as binding.

    "de-politicize", as in let the Senate vote without the political calculation of making the President look good right before an election. The voters did not have a referendum about New START. Heck, if even the R Senators who did not run for election were to vote for it, it would pass. Those members are not 'lame ducks'.

    It would be nice to know if you even supported this treaty.

  21. Mark — I am praying that someone important in the White House will say publicly what you just said, and soon. Obama must know that the absolutely worst thing he can do to this country is to let the Republicans re-take the White House in 2012, but blurring the differences between the parties will accomplish just that.

  22. In general I do support it. As I say, it should pass. During the NEXT session. Nothing the least bit controversial has any business being voted on during a lame duck session, and we're better off not having them, which we have frequently done without harm.

  23. when 'controversial' meets 'urgent', something has to give. The world does not revolve around the US Senate's schedule.

    But lesson learned – negotiating with the Senate Republicans is the first step in failure.

  24. And to add on, this lesson applies to any delay.

    Brett supports voting in January. This is farcical on the face – new Senators need time to get the information.

    So February? March? I can only draw from the Senate's track record that April, a full year later, might be when the vote would go.

  25. No surprise, I know, but I 100% agree with Brett Bellmore. The rush to ratify is the silliest non-issue ever. The Dems sat on this while they took on their priorities over the last 7 months. There is no reason to push this through the lame duck, except to create an issue to try to make R's look bad. There is no way moderate R's are ever going to get worked up over this, Mark. R's are perfectly comfortable making the case to wait for the new Congress, then ratify with appropriate amendments. My view is lame duck sessions should not even exist except to take on issues that can't wait. In that category, I would only put the AMT fix for 2010 and the extenders.

  26. So restarting weapon inspections is not important and timely, but reducing taxes is.

    And it was delayed, in part, to accommodate Senator Kyl's issues. But such football pulling is always the fault of the kicker, never of the holder in today's looking glass world. (See Charley vs Lucy)

  27. That's nonsense, Mobius. A further delay of two months will have no actual impact on inspections. And the Dems could have brought this to the floor anytime they wanted. And they could have accomodated Kyl at the same time, if they were really interested in doing that.

    It is a phony, ginned up issue to say this needs to be done during the lame duck.

  28. And yes, taxes do matter. If the AMT fix doesn't get done, some eight figure number of middle class families (that you guys claim you care so much about) will be caught up in its web for 2010. That will make whatever Congress ultiamtely does about the marginal rates irrelevant.

    On the other hand, this would accelerate what I believe to be inevitable – that the AMT will eventually be the simplified tax system for everyone. Everyone matches up the AMT with the adjective excruciating, but the only complex thing about it (unless you have stock options or oil well investments) is that you have to do your taxes twice. If it was the only calculation you had to do, a lot of accountants would be out of work since it is actually a simpler calculation than the 1040.

    In the meantime, we need the fix!

  29. Read my text above –

    It won't be a two month delay. You surely don't believe the Senate works that fast.

    Additionally, they did attempt to accommodate Kyl, but he didn't want to be accommodated. So, whatever.

  30. There is no reason to push this through the lame duck, except to create an issue to try to make R’s look bad.

    Then why is Dick Lugar, a Republican, publicly urging his colleagues to vote on it? I doubt his intention is to make his own party look bad.

  31. Ok, Mobius, one last time so I'm sure I understand you…

    You are saying the Senate can't get this treaty ratified within two months, and this is your argument for why they need to do it in the next three weeks? Pardon me, but I fear this logic is oxymoronic at best.

    I still say the appropriate things for Congress to do in the lame duck are the AMT fix and the annual extenders package, a handful right there. And while they are at it, they need to pass the continuing resolution to keep the Government operating, since the D's never bothered to pass a budget.

    When the time comes, there will be no significant opposition in the new Congress to the treaty, though there might be a few scuffles over amendments. In January or February, the vote will be more bi-partisan than it would be now. Wouldn't that give more comfort to our treaty partners? Just a better way. I understand why D's are ginning up the issue now, but they're not fooling anyone. No one to the right of Hillary is going to be upset that this is not going to be taken up during the lame duck. And now she has bigger fish to fry too.

  32. as in, the NEW Senate will have new Senators, and they take time to get up to speed. Get committee assignments, get the data, etc.

    But mostly, it's all about a new reason to delay, delay, delay. This Senate has had enough time to digest, understand, and decide on the treaty. Time to vote. S**t or get off the pot.

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