Is New START Road-kyl?

| Tue Nov. 16, 2010 1:26 PM EST

Laura Rozen reports that Jon Kyl (R–Ariz.) doesn't think the New START arms control treaty is ready for prime time:

“When Majority Leader Harry Reid asked me if I thought the treaty could be considered in the lame duck session, I replied I did not think so given the combination of other work Congress must do and the complex and unresolved issues related to START and modernization,” Kyl said in a statement.

....In further discussions between Democratic leaders and Kyl, congressional sources said, they interpreted Kyl's statement to mean "no" -- and not last-minute wrangling for more concessions from the Obama administration.

...."Issuing a press statement while sensitive private talks are ongoing strikes me as an act of bad faith," [a] nonproliferation hand said. "It only reinforces those who believe that Kyl is playing the administration for a fool, stringing out a series of concessions before abruptly calling the whole thing off."

That would be a shocker, wouldn't it? A Republican pretending to negotiate but with no intention of ever actually supporting a final product? Hard to believe.

Of course, as Kyl well knows, if New START doesn't make it through the lame duck it's dead forever. Despite the fact that both military leaders and a wide swath of foreign policy mavens of all stripes support it, it has zero chance of getting the 14 Republican votes it would need for approval in the new Senate. So it's now or never.

And, as Kyl also undoubtedly knows, it puts Obama in a touchy position. The military might support New START, and foreign policy types might support it, but guess who doesn't give a rat's ass about it? The American public. So even if Kyl eventually supports passage, by forcing Obama to spend more time on it he's forcing Obama to spend more time on yet another worthwhile but non-crowd pleasing policy. And it's time spent on a policy that's not related to jobs. Which means that if it fails, the Beltway punditocracy will rise up in a huge collective moan about Obama once again squandering his political capital when he should be focused like a laser on jobs, jobs, jobs.

So it's a smart move on Kyl's part. Cynical, but smart.