Says president’s nuclear posture “troublesome”; New START Treaty “modest step” in right direction but “not a chance” it will be ratified this year
Posted on April 11, 2010
U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, was a guest today on "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace" to discuss the retirement of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, President Obama's signing of the New START Treaty with Russia, and this week's nuclear summit in Washington. Below are excerpts of the interview:
On filling the upcoming Supreme Court vacancy:
- "I was deeply offended by how the Democrats changed the rules on President Bush's Supreme Court nominees. And I said at the time that as long as the president nominated well-qualified people, who'd be impartial, they should have an up-or-down vote, and that I would vote to confirm them. That's still my view. I voted for Justice Sotomayor."
- "If the president picks someone from the fringe instead of from the middle, or if he picks someone who will apply his or her feelings instead of applying the law, then that might be an extraordinary case when I can't vote for that nominee."
- "Is the president going to insist on this unusual standard he used as a senator and has talked about as the president, to pick a justice who's on ‘his side’? That's exactly what a Supreme Court justice is not supposed to be – somebody you can particularly depend on to be on your side in a controversial case. You want a Supreme Court justice who will be impartial, that's the oath, and whose judgment you can't predict."
On the Senate ratifying the New START Treaty:
- "First, there's not a chance the treaty will be approved this year. It took a year and a half to approve the START I treaty. And with the Supreme Court pushing to the front of the agenda in the Senate, and jobs, terror, and debt being our major issues we should be worrying about, this is a treaty for next year."
- "The treaty is a step. It's a modest step in a direction that goes all the way back to President Nixon, President Reagan, the first President Bush, the second President Bush with the Moscow treaty ... The questions are some of the ones mentioned by Senator Lieberman, and we need to take plenty of time to answer them. Will we at the same time modernize our own force? Can we still verify as well as we did in the first START treaty? There is new technology. Will we be able to build our missile defense systems? And then while the treaty may be in the right direction and the nuclear summit that's coming to town may be an impressive group of people, the nuclear posture statement that the president put out is troublesome to me. It takes away the ambiguity about our use of nuclear weapons. Ambiguity in foreign policy is sometimes very useful, as we've found in meeting with China and Taiwan."
On President Obama's plans to issue a new round of Iran nuclear sanctions and national security:
- "I think the president should proceed with it, and I've signed a letter along with other senators suggesting that. Iran is our most dangerous situation right now. And that's going back to the nuclear posture statement of the president a couple weeks ago. I don't think that taking away the ambiguity in our use of nuclear weapons is going to scare Iran or scare North Korea. I think only resoluteness on the part of the commander in chief will do that."
- "The confusion in knowing who a terrorist is, whether it's someone flying into a Detroit airport trying to bomb it at Christmastime or whether it's not being willing to try the 9/11 mastermind in a military court – the kind of confusion that Senator Lieberman talks about – does not help us in dealing in a forthright and candid way with Iran and others who are dangerous."