I Want to Be the Administration Dissident

Sure, none of them did much good. George Kennan and David Lilienthal on the H-Bomb, George Ball, Chester Bowles, Adlai Stevenson in various crises – all failed, all were derided. I know. But, I still want to be President Obama’s resident dissident. Should be simple. I’m used to non-profit salaries and come cheap. And I once had a top secret clearance before protesting the Vietnam War as an active duty Army Captain.  Call me.

Take the recent maneuver by Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ). He milks all the dough he can get for nuclear weapons out of playing hard to get on the new START Treaty. Then he humiliates the President by blocking the Treaty at the last minute. Kyl, an unctuous, oily, smarmy, yet smooth right-wing nut, has been playing this game since he was a Congressman back in the 20th Century.  I and other arms control lobbyists watched him play the same self-aggrandizing game over Star Wars as he wasted eons of floor debate, billions of our tax dollars, and undermined national security.

So what does President Obama do? He wraps himself in the old national security establishment at a White House event — as if any American under eighty knows who George Schultz is. Obama’s frame is that he’s defending our national security (and underlining his own lack of defense cred by surrounding himself with Generals and former Secretaries of Defense). And that he is in the tradition of Ronald Reagan and “Trust, but verify!”  Man, does this guy need a dissident at his table!

Mr. President, stop pussyfooting. Jon Kyl is a subversive, unpatriotic, anti-American guy who is being allowed to threaten American lives. Call him out. Tell him to resign. Get mad. Mr. Kyl does not understand the “aloha” spirit or Gandhi.

The bigger issue here than the counting and verifying of missiles, though that is important, is the wreckage of our “reset” of relations with Russia. Tell the public that Putin and his gang have helped us with the war in Afghanistan, stopped deals with Iran. We want these guys on our side, not against us in wartime. That Kyl would seek to wreck this growing cooperation with Russia while American lives are being lost is damned near treasonous. The more you knuckle under to these guys, the more they’ll take. It’s time for “Tear Down This Wall!” not “Trust, But Verify.” Or, even better. “This will not Stand.”

What Americans admire is character, principle, toughness (under lots of geniality and jokes) and the sense that you will fight. The new Congress is already licking their chops. They will attack and investigate you. How about a preemptive strike before they launch.


Robert K. Musil is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Congressional and Presidential Relations, American University, and the former CEO of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Physicians for Social Responsibility.

5 thoughts on “I Want to Be the Administration Dissident

  1. Harry C. Blaney III December 13, 2010 / 5:29 PM

    In response to Bob Musil and John McAuliff’s comments on Sen Kyl and prospects for New START and the implication of the likely attacks in Congress and especially the House, we need to strongly now support the likely vote this week in the Senate. Call your Senators NOW!

    But the long-range need is, as some have written, t5o make our voices heard and to reach out to a broad grouping of our citizens. In this we all have a role in the coming year which is likely to be a very difficult time. I hope to post late this week a kind of “yearly summary and look forward” on some key issues and hope others will add their voices on how they see the national security landscape and what needs to be done to seek a more secure world.

    Harry Blaney

  2. John McAuliff December 1, 2010 / 6:00 PM

    Right content but not a good job application.

    President Obama has a few months to rediscover why he was elected. The only virtue of the mid-term election was that he has a more clearly defined opposition.

    While I share your discomfort with the old national security wrap around, it did illustrate how extreme Sen. Kyl is.

    Now if he could be just as creative on escaping from the clutches of Sen. Menendez and Reps. Wasserman-Schultz and Ros-Lehtinen on Cuba policy, I could rekindle my enthusiasm.

    John McAuliff
    Fund for Reconciliation and Development

  3. Harry C. Blaney III November 29, 2010 / 3:25 PM

    I enjoyed Bob Musil’s post, and the following comments. We need the media to pay better attention to these issues and highlight the importance of this treaty for American national security. But Fox and many of the networks seem more interested in following the far-right ideological line with the aim to destroy this administration at any cost to our own security. Also, I think it is worthwhile to note that the “old” Republican security officials are speaking up in support for New START.

    The Europeans are very very concerned about the direction of our country.

    From London,
    Harry Blaney

  4. Alan Berlind November 23, 2010 / 1:59 PM

    Right on! It is time to call a jerk a jerk and challenge that jerk publicly before we pass up the best opportunity in two decades to find a parallel path with Russia
    on the way to solving several major problems at once. But we cannot leave it to journalists or (us) bloggers: with The President in the lead, Administration heavyweights must now call Kyl and his ilk onto the carpet and not let up for a moment. SecDef Gates has entered the fray, but his boss has to speak up again and again until Americans of all stripes pay attention. Welcome as it may be, Allied and Russian support alone for NEW START will not do the trick, only furnish Kyl et al with some new and twisted negative talking points.

  5. kittyreporter November 23, 2010 / 4:39 AM

    Mr. Musil, thanks for your post and your work with PSR. Senator Kyl’s grandstanding is purely political and has nothing to do with what would be best for Americans. It is unfortunate that some politicians like Kyl have difficulty understanding the concept of working together for the sake of Americans and all humanity. Passing the New START Treaty is in the best interest of all voters regardless of party affiliation. I am deeply concerned, however, about efforts of some Republicans to want a new breed of nuclear weapons. That is the complete antithesis of the purpose of the New START Treaty and people like yourself and your colleagues need to help the public understand why it will make us all less safe. Perhaps a panel from your organization could be interviewed on Meet the Press or 60 minutes.

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