Politico is reporting that Vice President Biden will be delivering a key address on the future of America's nuclear arsenal this Wednesday. Here's what to expect:
--It's likely that Biden will channel Secretary Gates' Oct 2008 speech to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. In that address, the SECDEF spelled out precisely why America needed to modernize and maintain its nuclear arsenal. Gates did so in a most unusual forum, an institution dedicated to ridding the world of nuclear weapons. Obama faces a similar problem, in that he has to explain why he's pumping $11 billion into nuclear upgrades two months after receiving a Nobel Peace Prize for advocating nuclear disarmament.
--Expect the routine "Blame Bush" talk. Obama used this tired template to justify his Afghanistan surge to the anti-war left, so it won't be surprising if Biden invokes the same language for nukes. Don't fall for it. Nuclear revitalization was a process started during the Bush years with the development of the reliable replacement warhead. The Obama administration killed that system and had no plan in place to maintain/modernize our strategic arsenal, until key lawmakers like Senator Jon Kyl forced the issue. The administration is begrudgingly agreeing to modernization because they need Senate support to pass the START follow-on and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, not because they were struck by a sudden urge to do the right thing.
--Still, I think Biden will lay out a convincing case. Indeed, this is an issue all Americans can get behind. With the reliable replacement warhead killed by the White House, our nuclear weapons -- and in particular the limited life components in those weapons -- are aging to unsafe levels. That jeopardizes confidence in our strategic forces, which can seriously destabilize nuclear deterrence.
Regardless of the fact that senate Republicans had to muscle the White House into the right decision, if Biden make the obvious, prudent case for modernization, conservatives should give it a strong backing.