I asked presidential candidate and former New York Gov. George Pataki a couple of questions at Robie’s Country Store in Hooksett on June 24. Here is a summary of the substance of our exchange, though the words are not exact.
Question (1-on-1): Do you agree with the program to rebuild U.S. nuclear weapons and delivery systems?
Gov. Pataki: I’m more concerned about Iran and keeping them from getting nuclear weapons.
Question: But do you support the $1 trillion plan to build a new generation of nuclear weapons and delivery systems?
Gov. Pataki: I believe we need to spend what’s required to keep us safe. (Turns away.)
Question (asked later, when Pataki is talking with the small group gathered at the event): I asked you earlier about nuclear weapons. Our nuclear weapons labs are privately run now. The corporations that run them – Bechtel, Battelle, & so on – are making immense profits and the budgets are escalating. How do we diminish the control of corporations over federal policy? [Oops… I was reminded later that Battelle is a lab, not a contractor.]
Gov. Pataki: First, I’m not surprised about the huge amount of waste. That happens with everything the government is involved in. We need to eliminate government waste. Second, we need to change the ability of private interests to influence government. There are over 400 former members of Congress who are registered lobbyists. Also the tax code is incomprehensible. If I’m President, I’ll propose a law with a life-time ban on anyone who has served a term in Congress becoming a registered lobbyist.
More of Governor Pataki’s comments on international relations, military spending and security policy:
· We should strengthen our military, not so that we use it but so that we don’t have to use it. A strong America is a safe America.
· Obama is too weak and needs to follow through on his threats. Allies don’t trust us, enemies don’t fear us.
· The Iranian nuclear deal is too weak.
· We should support the Egyptian regime that cracked down on the Islamic Brotherhood.
· We shouldn’t cut back on military training funds to save money.
Gov. Pataki doesn’t seem at all phased by the idea of the $1 trillion nuclear weapons spending plan. A bit of a contrast to Chris Christie who suggested the money might be better spent on other parts of the military budget, and Bernie Sanders who said the money would be better spent on human services.
It was curious that when questioned about the huge profits and cost overruns created by the private contractors who run our nuclear weapons labs, Pataki blamed the problem on “big government.” Come again???
Incidentally, on the way to the Pataki event I stopped by at Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord to hear John Sununu talk about his new book on George H. W. Bush. Though I’ve never agreed with his viewpoints, I thought he might have something interesting to say about the progress on disarmament made at the time the Cold War ended. But I didn’t hear much that was new. He did say that Bush was a skilled diplomat and avoided the triumphalism that might have made progress with the Soviets impossible, which was interesting. But Sununu’s overall viewpoint seemed to be that that progress towards disarmament under the first George Bush was possible because Ronald Reagan had “strengthened” the economy and made it impossible for the USSR to compete. By contrast, Sununu sees Obama as weak in foreign policy. Like Pataki, Sununu said that Obama had lost the trust of allies and that adversaries no longer fear the US. He also said that the proposed Iran deal was too weak and would never win approval, but that it might have done so if Obama been strong enough to stick to the original criteria. But he said he’d rather talk about George H.W. Bush. Sounded like an interesting book.
In any case, Pataki and Sununu both seem to hew to the “peace through strength” line. I think it’s worth considering this narrative and being able to talk about it. A couple of questions:
· Has NATO been anything but aggressive towards Russia since the end of the Cold War? Why do we characterize the US stance towards Russia as “weak?”
· Suppose that the “peace through strength” advocates are right that the US nuclear stockpile has deterred nuclear attack by Russia for several decades. Will this always work? What about accidents, insane leaders, etc? Do we really think that the “balance of terror” will protect us from nuclear annihilation indefinitely? Is it ever morally defensible to maintain a stockpile of weapons that can destroy life on earth?
· How does maintaining a huge nuclear stockpile deter other nations and terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons? Doesn’t the lack of progress on disarmament actually make proliferation more likely?