WASHINGTON (CNN) [Nov. 16, 1995] -- As the government budget standoff continued Thursday, House Speaker Newt Gingrich indicated the Republican hard line was due, in part, to a "snub" from President Clinton during their recent trip to Israel for the funeral of assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. White House Chief of StaffAttention, Obama communications team: we're back on Planet Bizarro. Faced with a vote on a nuclear arms treaty supported by seven former commanders of U.S. Strategic Command, six former secretaries of state, five former defense secretaries, the entire current military brass, George H. W. Bush, and presumably Jesus H. Christ (or at least his earthly representatives), Republicans are trotting out the politics of pique again. Threats began on Friday:
Leon Panetta called the Gingrich comment "bizarre."
The speaker said Wednesday that tough terms in the government spending bill President Clinton vetoed Monday night were included partly as the result of pique he and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole felt on Air Force One during flights with the president to and from Israel for the funeral.
Gingrich and Dole had complained earlier about their lack of discussions with Clinton during the 25 hours of flying time. But Gingrich went a step further Wednesday by saying the incident contributed to the government shutdown.
"This is petty," said Gingrich, indicating his displeasure at the way the two were treated. "You've been on the plane for 25 hours and nobody has talked to you and they ask you to get off the plane by the back ramp. ... You just wonder, where is their sense of manners? Where is their sense of courtesy?
That "snub," the Georgia Republican said, was "part of why you ended up with us sending down a tougher continuing resolution" -- the stopgap spending bill that Clinton vetoed Monday. That veto led to the partial shutdown of the federal government, now in its third day.
"Not once did either of them say, 'Let's go in the back and sit down and try to cut a deal," Panetta said.
"Frankly, it would have been inappropriate. Everybody knew this was about a funeral. ... This is bizarre. And even if that were the case -- which it isn't -- why would you want to shut down the government because you feel snubbed?
Vexed and cornered, Republican opponents of the advancing effort to allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military pulled out a final card Friday, suggesting that the future of an arms treaty with Russia was endangered by Democratic efforts to repeal “don’t ask don’t tell” at the end of the lame-duck session.Including, most recently, Lindsey Graham yesterday:
“It poisons the well,” said Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, on the floor of the Senate during debate on the New Start treaty. Mr. Coker said he did not think “the future of the Start treaty over the next several days is going to be successful” if Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, continued with his plans to pursue the repeal, as well as an immigration bill.
Other Republican senators echoed the view.
But sounding vexed during the show, Graham seemed not only chafed by the Senate voting down a Republican effort to amend the preamble of the treaty; he also linked the START treaty to his resentment over how the current lame-duck session of Congress has turned out.The text of New Start has been publicly available for eight months; the Senate has held more than 20 hearings in which trumped-up pseudo-objections were exhaustively addressed; and the President has pledged billions in ransom to upgrade the country's nuclear arsenal to Jon Kyl's specs, only to be betrayed once again by a Republican bad-faith negotiator. For Republicans to claim that consideration of the treaty is being "rushed" recalls the proverbial murderer of father and mother who pleads for mercy on the grounds that he's an orphan.
Graham exclaimed how hard it was to pass a bipartisan compromise over extending the Bush era tax cuts, and expressed his disappointment over repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy banning openly gay service members.
"If you want to have a chance of passing START, you better start over and do it in the next Congress, because this lame duck has been poisoned," Graham told CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer.
It is time for the White House to drop their gentlemanly acknowledgment of treaty opponents' "sincerity" (most recently: "We respect Senator McConnell’s view") and start hitting them for putting partisan political gain above the national interest. As they so plainly are.