Opinion

Why is Obama playing politics with nukes?

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Photo - EVERGLADES CITY, FL - APRIL 08:  A rocket is seen painted on the wall of a building that was used to support the launching of conventional and nuclear tipped Nike missiles in reaction to any Russian attack in the Everglades National Park on April 8, 2010 near Everglades City, Florida. As U.S. President Barack Obama and President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia sign their nuclear arms control treaty today, relics like this former missile site are a reminder of how far the relationship between the United States and Russia has come. The missile base was built by the United States Army Corps of Engineers in 1963 at the height of the Cold War and was finally closed in 1979. Former workers whom the park service has interviewed say the site contained nuclear tip warheads that were ready to be fired if needed.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
EVERGLADES CITY, FL - APRIL 08: A rocket is seen painted on the wall of a building that was used to support the launching of conventional and nuclear tipped Nike missiles in reaction to any Russian attack in the Everglades National Park on April 8, 2010 near Everglades City, Florida. As U.S. President Barack Obama and President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia sign their nuclear arms control treaty today, relics like this former missile site are a reminder of how far the relationship between the United States and Russia has come. The missile base was built by the United States Army Corps of Engineers in 1963 at the height of the Cold War and was finally closed in 1979. Former workers whom the park service has interviewed say the site contained nuclear tip warheads that were ready to be fired if needed. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Opinion,Op-Eds

President Obama has made reducing the U.S. nuclear deterrent a primary focus of his administration. In 2010, he negotiated a treaty with the Russians that, for the first time in history, required only the United States to reduce its deployed nuclear forces.

He then stated he would immediately seek even further reductions to U.S. nuclear forces. Proposals for those reductions, according to press reports, include going as low as 300 deployed nuclear weapons -- an 80 percent reduction.

Meanwhile, Congress has been kept in the dark on the status of these proposals, as have the American people. All have been compelled to wait for the results of the Nuclear Posture Review implementation study -- or "mini-NPR" for short -- to be released to learn more. No matter that this study was commenced in August 2011, and was due out more than 11 months ago.

While Congress and the American people have been told to be content and wait, the president announced during a speech in Seoul, South Korea, in May 2012 that "[t]hat study is still underway. But even as we have more work to do, we can already say with confidence that we have more nuclear weapons than we need."

More than a year after that study commenced, and more than four months after the president announced he already knew what it would find, it has still not been released, Congress hasn't been briefed and the American people only know what the president told a group in South Korea. Why?

According to a recent New York Times report: "The casualties of the calendar include a presidential decision on how deeply to cut the stockpile of strategic nuclear warheads, even below the levels in the New Start treaty with Russia. The administration has all but completed a review of options for Mr. Obama's consideration, officials said, but the announcement has been delayed for months."

This is unprecedented. No president has ever before held up a nuclear review for an election.

Most Americans are familiar with the so-called "nuclear football" that a military officer always carries alongside the president everywhere he goes. What has been depicted in countless movies is, in truth, among the greatest of responsibilities entrusted to our president.

But now, President Obama is holding up the issuance of his seemingly precooked review because he's likely determined that the American people might not like the conclusions.

The president has reportedly instructed his staff only to consider reducing the U.S. nuclear force to 1,000, 700 or 300 deployed nuclear weapons at a time when almost every other state with nuclear weapons is going in the opposite direction. That itself was a significant departure from previous presidents.

We now have an idea of what the president meant, also in Seoul, when he told President Medvedev that he would have more "flexibility" after his "last election." What is the president planning that he doesn't think the American people would support? Why has President Putin all but endorsed Mr. Obama's re-election?

Is it something like the recommendations of his International Security Advisory Board, which recommends further reductions that evade the constitutional mechanisms of a statutory enactment or treaty ratification?

One thing is clear. The American people should think carefully about what it says about a president who is asking for their vote but won't trust them enough to tell them what he plans to do if he gets it.

Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, serves as chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, which has jurisdiction over the nation's nuclear arsenal.

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