Sen. Barack Obama claims in a new campaign ad to have “reached out” to Republicans in Congress to launch a major new program to “lock down loose nuclear weapons,” when in fact the legislation he helped pass authorized the Bush administration to maintain and expand an initiative pioneered by John Bolton to help foreign countries stop shipments of weapons of mass destruction components from reaching rogue states such as Iran.
In the campaign ad, titled “America’s Leadership,” the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee says, “The single most important national security threat we face is the threat of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. What I did was reach out to Senator Dick Lugar, Republican, to help lock down loose nuclear weapons.”
An on-screen caption provides the details. “On the Foreign Relations Committee, Obama Passed a Law . . . To Keep Nuclear Weapons Out Of Terrorists’ Hands.”
However, the bill mentioned in the ad — Public Law 109-472, signed into law by President Bush on Jan. 11, 2007 — was introduced by Lugar in late September 2006 without co-sponsors and not as a result of Lugar’s discussions with Obama and was voted out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee without a hearing.
In his speech to unveil the new measures, Lugar said he was “introducing legislation today at the request of the executive branch and will be seeking unanimous consent to request its passage as soon as possible.”
Aides to Lugar tell Newsmax that Obama and his staff helped craft a key portion of the final bill that was introduced as a stand-alone measure on April 6, 2006 with broad bipartisan support.
The April 2006 bill, known as the Cooperative Proliferation Detection, Interdiction Assistance, and Conventional Threat Reduction Act of 2006, was later folded into a broader legislative package for the State Department that became law.
The main feature of the stand-alone bill required the president to report to Congress within 180 days “on proliferation and interdiction assistance” to other nations.
In a series of “findings,” the Lugar-Obama act applauded the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), unveiled by then-Undersecretary of State John Bolton in 2003, for having won the cooperation of “more than 70 countries” in assisting U.S. efforts to detect and interdict shipments of WMD materials and components.
“I’m glad Senator Obama supports President Bush’s PSI,” Bolton told Newsmax. “But he definitely was not present at the creation.”
The best-known success of the PSI occurred in October 2003, when authorities in Germany, Italy, and Indonesia worked together with the United States to intercept the ship BBC China en route to Libya with what turned out to be a disguised uranium enrichment plant on board.
Lugar was quick to praise Obama when the freshman from Illinois joined him in an August 2005 fact-finding mission to Ukraine and Azerbaijan, where they toured former Soviet nuclear weapons sites.
“I was particularly pleased that Barack chose Nunn-Lugar [law for threat reduction sponsored by Sam Nunn and Lugar] as the subject of his first foreign travel as a senator,” Lugar told the Council on Foreign Relations shortly after that trip.
Since the start of the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program in 1991, Congress has provided $400 million per year on average to help Russia and other states in the Former Soviet Union to dismantle nuclear weapons, delivery systems, and chemical and biological weapons.
In a major foreign policy address at the University of Denver on May 27, Sen. McCain expressed support for continued funding of the Nunn-Lugar programs, as well as strengthening of the Bush administration’s Proliferation Security Initiative, the program Obama claims to have co-authored with Lugar “to lock down loose nuclear weapons.”
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