The Rachel Maddow Show | December 03, 2012
>>> once upon a time , the former president of the united states went out on his fast boat and took out on his fast boat with him these tiny people who are are too tiny to discern, but who include this man, who happens to be the current president of koz sack stand. they went boating together at the bush family compound in maine. he's been president of that country for 20 years. if you want to know what kind of president he's been, he got 95% of the vote in the last election. his government declared to be president's day and 30,000 people performed in a pageant devoted to expressing his personal awesomeness. he also controls the state media, naturally. not exactly a president in the way we think of a president, but that's the president. also president of belle ruse. he's been president there for almost 20 years. in an amazing q&a last week, reuters asked this guy his reaction to being called a dictator. i asked myself "what is a dictator? i sometimes in a nice way envy myself. i am the last and only dictator in europe and there are none anywhere else in the world . you came here and looked at a living dictator. where else would you see one?" imagine what it feels like to envy yourself. it would be totally inappropriate for our country to be friendly with guys who run these republics. that are psyched to be referred to as a dictator. but in the real world , we do have some relationships with these types of leaders and these types of countries. sometimes our presidents even go speedboating with these types of leaders. we do as a country, even when they are creeps, we do lead projects with them that our government sees as in our national interests . so in belarus , they gave up their nuclear weapons in the 1990s , but it was a big deal and a surprising thing when the obama administration got belarus to give up their highly enriched uranium too. their stockpile of the material was taken away and secured by the united states . the guy in kaz sack stand, the guy who named a national holiday in his own honor, he agreed to give up a portion of his country's highly- enriched uranium and all the risk that goes with it. it's remarkable that coup tries that used to be part of a soviet union , these countries agreed to give up their nuclear weapons and that they also agreed to give up material used to make nuclear weapons . so while there are a lot of things to worry about with belarus , we can worry a little less about their stockpile because they let us lock some of it up. american policy that makes this a priority is now more than 20 years old. it goes back to 1992 . it's the cooperative threat reduction program. it's named after the senator sam nun and richard lugar . this is one of the things that our government does. you may remember me wearing a funny outfit when we traveled to mexico while they were giving up the last of their jury rain yum. working with our administration to safely contain and take away that material. from the beginning of this presidency, the work has been a priority for president obama . ten weeks after he was inaugurated in 2009 , he traveled to praug and laid out his vision in front of 20,000 people.
>> as a nuclear power as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon , the united states has a moral responsibility to act. we cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it. we can start it. so today i state clearly and with conviction america's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons . [ applause ] i'm not naive. this it goal will not be reached quickly. perhaps not in my lifetime. it will take patience and persistence. but now we, too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change. we have to insist, yes we can.
>> that was in 2009 just weeks after he was inaugurated. the following year in 2010 , president obama convened the first nuclear security summit in washington . more than 40 heads of state got together to discuss among other things how to best safeguard the nuclear material that already exists around the world . that same year president obama signed a new stark treatment. an agreement between united states and russia to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in each country's arsenal. he called that his top national security priority and he got the senate to ratify it. it's hard to put a bigger exclamation point on a policy than the way he's talked about nuclear disarmament . and counterproliferation. keeping the world safe not just from nuclear weapons , but nuclear material falling into the wrong hands. it's still this underappreciate ed it thing about what is important to him. and also how long it's been important to him. today president obama underscored how seriously he's taken this issue from the beginning of his career in a speech praising in part republican richard lugar 's work on nuclear weapons and nuclear material as senator lugar prepares to leave washington after decades.
>> it was dick who took me on my first foreign trip as a senator to russia and ukraine. i remember walking through one facility. i started leaning in for a closer look and one of the workers said don't touch that orange stuff. it it turned out to be tnt. at another point, the workers were taking gloves on their hands, masks over their faces. i'm thinking, why don't we have masks on? this is the kind of trip you take with dick lugar .
>> it does not covered that often by the beltway media, but nuclear material , reducing the number of them in the world , making sure that the material out there does not fall into the hands of craziecrazies, these have been at the top of barack obama 's to do list in washington since he first came to washington .
>> you may remember this it, dick. i was in ukraine. we went to an old factory. we walked down these long, dark corridors. we're stepping over puddles of something, we're not sure what it was. finally we came across some women sitting at a work table. piles of old artillery shells and the women were sitting there taking them apart. by hand. slowly, carefully, one by one. it took decades and extraordinary sums of money to build those arsenals. this is going to take decades and continued investments to disma dismantle them. it's pain-staking work. missile by missile, shell by shell, we're putting an era behind ugs.
>> joining us is the president of the gloeshl security foundation. also a member of the council on foreign relations . thank you for being here.
>> my pleasure.
>> you were there when president obama gave that speech today. is this -- should we see this as a commemoration of richard lugar at the end of this senate career, or did this have policy significance?
>> it's more than a commemoration, although that was a big part of the purpose. he told some funny stories and had warm reminisces about richard lugar . but then he turned serious. you heard this part of his speech. you quoted my favorite line. missile by missile, war head by war head, shell by shell, we're taking this bygone era apart. he chose this moment, this is the first national security speech since he was reelected. he chooses to talk about nuclear weapons . to underscore his personal commitment to it, to reaffirm his vision that he expressed in prague in his first speech as president that this is important to him and he did it at the national defense university with his entire nuclear security team in front of him. this was as much a message to the bureaucracy as it was to the american people in the world . this is important to me. i intend to see this through.
>> his personal commitment on this issue is something that's made it an issue to watch since he first became president. frankly, since he first became senator. how do you judge his first term in terms of keeping his promises or aimed toward the things he wanted to get accomplished in this field?
>> he's kept almost all his promises in this field. there's a fact checking site that ran the numbers down today and judged that in most cases, he kept his promises. he did a treaty with russia . he did increase and speed up the work to secure these nuclear materials . he made it harder for other countries to try to get these. he faced resistance particularly in russia and in political opponents in the u.s. senate . so he's only achieved about half of what he intended to do. and that's what made this speech so important today. he's saying the job is not yet done. we have a long way to go. i intend to see it through to the end.
>> one of the last times you and i talked about this, we talked about the fact that what the republicans in the senate, in particular, demanded in exchange for ratifying the new start treaty with russia , they demanded many, many, many billions of dollars to be put into building new nuclear weapons and supposedly modernizing the nuclear arsenal . for a president taking this thing apart shell by shell, to also be making those big investments in nuclear weapons laboratories and manufacturing and modernizing, it seems like a bit of an oxymoron. how do you assess that side of his deal making?
>> he said as long as the weapons exist, we have to make sure they are safe and secure and effective. which is true. we're stuck with the cost in the nuclear weapons complex. we spend $56 billion on nuclear weapons and related programs. we're scheduled to spend $640 billion on these programs over the next ten years. clearly this is excessive. clearly this can be cut back. this is the gap in the president's program. there's been a gap between his policies, which seek to reduce and eliminate these weapons. and the procurement for the systems which continue to go upwards. the policy has not caught up with the procurement. that's why it's urgent he act soon in his new term to bridge that gap, to want to gain control of the policy apparatus, to slow the contracts down before we lock in the building of an entire new generation of missiles, bombers and subs.
>> president of the fund, thank you. it's great to have you here.
>> thank you it, rachel.
>>> anybody who has ever googled the word "santorum" knows how that turns out. now it's awkward for a new reason. stay tuned. multisymptom nighttime... [