In Defense of Trent Lott
Jude Wanniski
May 5, 1997


Memo To: Paul Weyrich
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Trent Lott

I happened to see your letter to Trent Lott in the May 2 edition of The Washington Times and found it to be puzzling in many ways. You practically accuse him of treason for voting for the Chemical Weapons Convention, which may be a bad treaty, but at its worst, can't be so bad. Even a number of Senators who voted against it tell me they came close to voting for it. I can see that if you really believe it will tie our hands forever in a unilateral disarmament process, you could be as exercised as you are. I did not take the time to read the detailed history of the convention, but there were no arguments advanced about it that seriously threaten our national security. Some folks tell me the treaty is really not much more than a symbolic gesture, with nothing in it that can bite us. I frankly was undecided on how I would vote for it until the last few days, making up my mind that it was okay before I learned how Trent would vote. I'll grant that his explanation was not sharp or felicitous, but it is understandable that close calls will have murky rationales. Both Trent and I were guaranteed supporters on all national security issues during the Cold War. Now that the new world requires a new world order, it suggests to me that U.S. global leadership can't simply project an iron fist.

The fact is, the CWC began with Presidents Reagan and Bush, and had the support of a broad range of serious people. I know a few of our former Pentagon chiefs opposed it, but they did so almost pro forma. They did not make the kinds of trenchant arguments that could justify ditching a project that we initiated, having persuaded everyone of our allies that it should be done. What kind of leadership would that be? If Trent had undermined the treaty at the last minute, announcing a "no" vote with the kind of weak arguments that had been assembled by Richard Perle, he would have appeared to be an agent of Perle's, not an independent leader. If Perle is to fill the shoes of the late Albert Wohlstetter, he had better develop more logical argumentation than he did this time around. In a world at peace, it is especially difficult to be able to move the nation in the direction of hardline policy that presumes war to be just around the corner. It is similar to Alan Greenspan raising interest rates to fight an inflation that is nowhere in sight, or The New York Times insisting we stop burning hydrocarbons to pre-empt a global warming that is nowhere in sight. The Republican Party will never be able to win the support of the electorate for the White House and Congress if it presents itself as a party committed to winning wars. This does not mean unilateral disarmament.  It means projecting a commitment to principles that every nation on earth will come to see they can depend upon. This is especially important for the Rogue Nations to experience. They have to see that we will leave them alone as long as they live by the international principles to which we ourselves adhere. For the most part, terrorism occurs only when a class of people believe they have been treated unjustly by those in charge, with no peaceful venue by which their grievance can be adjudicated.

When we are at war, all's fair. In peace, the decisions of our political leaders have to be grounded in fairness. That's why I think at the very least you went overboard in your letter to Trent. If you drop an H-Bomb on him for this piece of paper called the CWC, what kind of weapon do you use when he does something that may truly be dangerous for the life of our nation? What I mean to say is that I think it lacked a sense of proportion. I wish you would think through the possibility of sending him a second note, even if only in private. It's important, I think, that we maintain a dialogue with each other in these unusual times, when Republicans seem to be gunning for each other at the drop of a hat.