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Richard Klass

Richard Klass

Posted: November 28, 2010 12:18 PM

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) the Senate Minority Leader has set the goal publicly: The top priority of the GOP in the 112th Congress is to deny President Obama a second term.

The first phase of the strategy is to inflict political defeats on the president during the "lame duck" session on issues such as New START, Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT), taxes and job creation.

New START: Consider this scenario. Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ), McConnell's henchman on the issue, has refused to allow a vote on the treaty under the arcane rules of the senate. He insists that he must have a deal on modernizing the U.S. nuclear complex - an issue ignored by the GOP during the last administration. He now insists that funding must not only be in the President's budget but approved by congress before going ahead with New START.

The treaty would have to begin the Senate Approval process again with any vote delayed until nuclear complex funding was locked in. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), Kyl and others have said they want to change the treaty in ways that will require renegotiation with the Russians. The Russians, rightly questioning the seriousness and reliability of the American political process, will refuse and Kyl will then portray the president as weak and ineffective. The President's "reset" policy will be declared dead as Russia pulls back from cooperating with the U.S. on Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan. In the absence of the New START verification regime, conservative think tanks and politicians will "discover" secret Russian strategic nuclear programs and will demand a U.S. response. The President and Democratic senators up for reelection in 2012 will be castigated as weak on defense and unpatriotic if they do not go along.

How should President Obama respond to this cynical strategy? First, if New Start is not voted on during the "lame duck" session, the President should call a special session of Congress between Christmas and midnight January 2 when the 111th Congress expires to deal with it. Second, President Obama and senior Senate Democrats should tell Kyl and the GOP that the additional $4.1billion for nuclear complex modernization is off the table if New Start is not approved this year.

DADT: The GOP is following a similar strategy of preventing a vote on DADT in the Senate version of the FY2011 Defense Authorization Bill. Sen. McCain (R-AZ), McConnell's henchman on this issue, wants to stop inclusion of DADT in the bill so as to alienate President Obama from his liberal supporters and show him as ineffective in fulfilling a major campaign pledge. McCain has shown his lack of conviction by first asking for a vote to wait on a Pentagon study and, when the study appeared to be supporting repeal, by denouncing it as flawed. Would that he head the character and convictions of his wife.

Again, President Obama has a counter. He should arrange with the Majority leadership to make sure any Defense Authorization Bill is timed to come to his desk so he can exercise a pocket veto and require a special session of Congress between the holidays.

There are certainly similar strategies with appointed henchmen to deal with extending the tax cuts and other issues. A clear objective is to stop any Congressional action that could speed the recovery and give President Obama and the nation a victory. Why not? The strategy of delay and denial was used to slow health care reform and, if successful in the "lame duck" session, is sure to be used in the next Congress.

President Obama cannot afford to have the GOP strategy succeed in the "lame duck: session. He must use every one of his considerable presidential powers and communication skills to expose and thwart the cynical GOP strategy. He must be clear that the GOP is not interested in compromise. Their only interest is in negotiating the terms of presidential surrender.

The GOP goal and strategy are clear. The good of the country is in as grave danger as the Obama presidency. No more false negotiations. It is time to do battle.