Saturday, March 31, 2007

Missile envy -- part II

Montana Headlines has certainly taken the occasional gratuitous shot at our two Democratic U.S. Senators. Our posts on the Kobe beef scandal spring immediately to mind. On one occasion, we even felt compelled to apologize for unfair comments about Sen. Baucus.

Perhaps we were unfair to Sen. Tester in our last Missile Envy post. It is interesting, though, that 4&20 Blackbirds feels it is self-evident that Montana Headlines took a gratuitous swipe at Jon Tester -- and yet in the same post we are expected to accept without question broad liberal canards such as the assertion that the Iraq war is illegal.

The last we checked, all that Congress has to do is to vote to deauthorize military actions in Iraq that it had previously authorized and then the war will be illegal if it continues -- but not until then. We are also expected to believe the class-warfare rhetoric (gratuitously thrown in at the end?) that the war has gone badly because "it was more important for conservatives to increase tax breaks for the rich and multi-national corporations than it was to actually make a real effort in Iraq."

One hardly knows what to say. But then, regular readers of Montana Headlines know that we have never been in the business of defending either the war or the administration's handling of it -- we have stated that we would applaud Sen. Tester if he were to sign on to a more honest bill like Sen. Russ Feingold's, to deauthorize and defund the war. Believe us, given the relentlessly vituperative and unrefined rhetoric directed at Republicans from much of the left regarding the Iraq war, it is tempting to think up ways to defend the President out of sheer partisan loyalty, regardless of how negatively we view the Mideast morass. But we won't.

Around here, given a choice between tax cuts and a war in Iraq, we would have chosen the former, every time, from day one. We would choose border control, domestic fiscal responsibility, stabilization of Social Security, efforts to preserve small farmers, ranchers, and businessmen, or any number of conservative domestic priorities over foreign military interventions. And we are hardly alone, since as we have noted before, there has long been what we call a "war gap" in the Republican party.

We Republicans do tend to support a Commander in Chief in his decisions on how to prosecute a Congressionally authorized military action, and we have an allergy to anything that fails the sniff test of Vietnam anti-war rhetoric -- which did hurt troop morale, and does now. But those, as went the phrase from back in the day, are our hang-ups.

But we will get back to 4&20's comments on our post, which deserve a response, given that site's general reputation for being fair as well as hard-hitting.

The heart of the offending passage was our comment on Tester's statement about Malmstrom's "critical role in defending our homeland" and that "now is not the time to weaken it in any way":

Yeah, that oughta do the trick. Jon Tester is going to be really convincing as a true believer in the importance of defending the homeland with nuclear weapons. And if he does manage to become convincing at it, he won’t have to worry about being the toast of the progressive community for much longer.

We are then asked what exactly we are getting at. Perhaps we suffered from a lack of clarity resulting from not spelling things out. Our statement did not criticize progressives for being against the Iraq war: that would be hypocritical, since we oppose it ourselves. We weren't criticizing progressives for wanting to put more money into the VA -- although what that has to do with nuclear deterrence, we don't know. Etc.

Our statement was pretty clearly focused on the issue at hand: Malmstrom and the efforts by Congressional delegations to preserve the economic benefits of military installations in their states. That particular Air Force base primarily defends our homeland in one very specific way: nuclear missiles. Jon Tester is currently leaping to assert strongly that Malmstrom's nuclear mission shouldn't be weakened.

And yet, it took only a few seconds of searching the web to find
candidate Jon Tester's response to "Citizens for Global Solutions" during his Senate campaign:

Nuclear Weapons

10. Would you actively oppose the appropriation of funds for the research, development and deployment of earth-penetrating and other new forms of nuclear weapons?


I oppose testing and development of a new generation of nuclear weapons, including so-called "bunker-buster" type weapons. New forms of nuclear weapons undermine international efforts toward nonproliferation and threaten national security.

So, let's get this straight: Jon Tester is an ardent supporter of the importance of keeping outdated ICBM's that are designed for the outdated mission of wiping out entire cities of civilians (note that said ICBM's just happen to be based in Montana.) And yet last fall he clearly opposed the development of newer, more effective, and more reliable nuclear weapons -- ones that might be of more limited tactical use in attacking specifically military targets?

There is a common thread in Tester's responses, and it is neither a sophisticated and knowledgeable support for a strong national defense nor a courageous and principled advocacy for pulling back from a dependence on nuclear weapons. The common thread is rather his saying what a particular audience wants to hear.

When talking to the Citizens for Global Solutions (who concluded their questions by making sure that Tester would take their endorsement and their money), he told progressives what they wanted to hear by giving a nice statement against nuclear proliferation and the development of a new generation of nuclear weapons. And now, he is giving an impassioned plea to keep active ICBM's in Montana -- also what the intended audience wants to hear.

One principled stance or the other would make sense. The combination of the two seems more like old-style politics, with Tester hoping that his left hand doesn't notice what his right hand is doing. Our criticism is that simple. And it's not gratuitous.


Anonymous said...

MT Headlines: Good Post on Missiles. Here's some more info:
Jon Tester is for reduction/elimination of Nuclear Weapons and he and Max Baucus are supported and funded by a group called Council for a Livable World who according to their website:
"Council for a Livable World will continue to advocate deep reductions and the eventual elimination of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons."
I just don't believe that Tester and Baucus will go all out for Malmstrom AFB like the claim they will. They have to put on a good show, though. We'll see. If the 50 missiles go, then I think I am correct.

mtliberty said...

Here's a break out of the contributors:

Montana Headlines said...

Yes, at the very least, Baucus and Tester will need to put on a good show.

We've already discussed how zealously the North Dakota delegation works to protect their Air Force bases.

Another example that springs to mind was the sole reversal of the last round of military installation reductions -- Ellsworth AFB in neighboring South Dakota.

I remember watching the proceedings on C-Span, and was struck by the way that the SD delegation worked together. They successfully saved the B-1 program there when every other Congressional delegation failed to save what was being cut in their states.

They had lots of credibility. John Thune was a Republican who had defeated Daschle in part on his promise to have more pull with the executive branch to protect Ellsworth.

Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson (may he quickly recover) is a decorated veteran, and has credibility because of that.

Dem. Rep. Stephanie Herseth took a pretty strong pro-military stance early on.

Most importantly, the delegation worked together to present the information why it was militarily a bad idea to restrict B-1 operations to a single AFB (Dyess, in TX) -- weather issues alone made that a poor idea, and there were logistical support problems at Dyess.

The delegation came across as true believers -- not in wanting to keep the economic benefit -- but in the merits of the mission of the base they were defending.

And they all resisted the urge to claim credit. Thune repeatedly refused to let reporters put words in his mouth to the effect that this was a victory for him personally. Every time he got one of those questions, he credited Johnson and Herseth, and most importantly, he credited the merits of Ellsworth.

Somehow, I just don't get the feeling that our delegation, under the leadership of Sen. Baucus, is capable of coming anywhere close to what the Dakota and Wyoming delegations can accomplish.

In no small part, this is because of a lack of credibility. The 50 missiles are gone.

Again, that's not necessarily a bad thing. What is bad is that even if our delegation was out in front to find more missions for Malmstrom and had credibility -- they now don't have that powerful Appropriations Committee seat.

And while Baucus has a useful Finance Committee chairmanship, he shows few signs of knowing what to do with it.