After President Obama reacted to Sarah Palin's criticism of his nuclear policy by stating that she is "not much of an expert on nuclear issues," right-wing media figures responded by denigrating Obama's own nuclear expertise prior to assuming the presidency. In fact, as a U.S. senator, Obama co-authored nonproliferation legislation and traveled to the former Soviet Union to examine weapons stockpiles.
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Right-wing media mock Obama's "vast nuclear experience" before becoming president
Palin mocks the "vast nuclear experience" Obama gained "as a community organizer and as a part-time senator." During her April 9 speech at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, Palin said: "Now, the president, with all the vast nuclear experience that he acquired as a community organizer and as a part-time senator, and as a full-time candidate, all that experience, still no accomplishment to date with North Korea and Iran."
Ingraham: Obama "had no nuclear experience, and became president of the United States." Discussing Obama's exchange with Palin on the April 9 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Ingraham stated, "He says, 'I'm not going to comment on that,' and then he says, 'well, she has no nuclear experience.' And of course, he had no nuclear experience and became president of the United States."
Hannity: Obama's nuclear experience comes from "his days as a community organizer." On the April 9 edition of his Fox News program, Sean Hannity said, "I guess the president got a lot of nuclear policy experience during his days as a community organizer in Chicago, alongside his pal, the unrepentant terrorist, Bill Ayers."
In Senate, Obama worked on non-proliferation policy, co-authored "next critical step" on issue
Obama took fact-finding trip to former USSR to examine WMD stockpiles. In 2005, in his first foreign trip as a U.S. senator, Obama traveled to Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan with Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), then-chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. The purpose of the trip was to examine facilities for the storage and destruction of conventional, biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons. Obama and Lugar subsequently co-wrote a December 2005 Washington Post op-ed on the issue and appeared together in a discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations on "Challenges Ahead For Cooperative Threat Reduction," in which Obama detailed ways to improve the U.S. program to control, secure, and dismantle weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union.
With Lugar, Obama co-authored non-proliferation initiative signed into law by President Bush. Obama and Lugar co-authored the "Lugar-Obama non-proliferation initiative," which "enhances U.S. efforts to destroy conventional weapons stockpiles and to detect and interdict weapons and materials of mass destruction throughout the world." The legislation was signed into law by President Bush in January 2007. According to a June 28, 2007, press release from Lugar, he and Obama subsequently secured "$36 million for programs to destroy heavy conventional weapons, $10 million for efforts to intercept weapons and materials of mass destruction, and $2 million for rapid response to proliferation detection and interdiction emergencies."
Lugar praised Obama's "productive" work on nonproliferation that took "next critical step" on the issue. In an August 2008 Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette op-ed (retrieved from the Nexis database), Lugar wrote that "Sen. Obama has worked with me, productively, on non-proliferation issues. We jointly introduced a bill that strengthened U.S. defenses against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction." He further wrote:
Sen. Obama joined me in developing legislation in 2005 -- long before he was a presidential candidate -- to address emerging proliferation risks. After significant study and site visits, it became clear to us that additional safeguards were required to strengthen the lines of defense between unsecured weapons of mass destruction and U.S. borders and to deal with vulnerable stockpiles of conventional weapons and hand-held anti-aircraft missiles. Lightweight anti-aircraft missiles were especially at risk. There may be as many as 750,000 such missiles, known formally as man portable air defense systems, or MANPADS, in arsenals worldwide. The State Department estimates that more than 40 civilian aircraft have been hit by such weapons since the 1970s.
Loose stocks of small arms and other weapons also help fuel civil wars in Africa and elsewhere and, as we have seen repeatedly, provide the ammunition for those who attack peacekeepers and aid workers trying to stabilize and rebuild war-torn societies. The Lugar-Obama initiative disposes of artillery shells like those used in the improvised roadside bombs that have proved so deadly to American forces in Iraq. Lugar-Obama also strengthens our ability to work with allies to detect and intercept illegal shipments of weapons of mass destruction or material that could be used in a nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. This enhances an important second line of defense between weapons of mass destruction and the American people.
The Nunn-Lugar program has provided a solid foundation, valuable experience and measurable results. With the Lugar-Obama legislation, we took the next critical step forward to refocus and reinvigorate our country's non-proliferation mission.
In 2005, I traveled with Sen. Obama to Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan to oversee a number of proliferation projects. In Russia, we visited Nunn-Lugar sites where nuclear weapons were being dismantled and stored. In Ukraine, we inspected the Donetsk State Chemical Production Plant, a conventional weapons destruction facility where the U.S. has taken the lead in a three-year NATO program to destroy the weapons. At that facility, more than 117,000 tons of ammunition and 1.1 million small arms and light weapons are slated for destruction within 12 years. During the visit we encouraged Ukrainian officials to expedite destruction efforts and expand cooperative threat reduction of conventional weapons. In Azerbaijan, we observed sea interdiction exercises in the Caspian Sea and encouraged leaders there to continue their cooperation with the United States.
These programs are ongoing. For a relatively small investment they are making a huge difference to U.S. and global security.
Obama introduced Nuclear Weapons Threat Reduction Act of 2007. Obama introduced the Nuclear Weapons Threat Reduction Act of 2007 (S.1977), with then-Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) as an original co-sponsor, which would "provide for sustained United States leadership in a cooperative global effort to prevent nuclear terrorism, reduce global nuclear arsenals, stop the spread of nuclear weapons and related material and technology, and support the responsible and peaceful use of nuclear technology."
Obama interest in nuclear policy predates his Senate career. Obama reportedly authored his college thesis on "Soviet nuclear disarmament." Moreover, Washington Monthly reported in September 2006: "On the campaign trail in 2004, Obama spoke passionately about the dangers of loose nukes and the legacy of the Nunn-Lugar nonproliferation program, a framework created by a 1991 law to provide the former Soviet republics assistance in securing and deactivating nuclear weapons. Lugar took note, as 'nonproliferation' is about as common a campaign sound-bite for aspiring senators as 'exchange-rate policy' or 'export-import bank oversight.'"