SO GREAT is the Republican impulse to deny President Clinton bill-signing ceremonies before the November election that his opponent, Bob Dole, has slipped into a negative posture that strikes us as dumb politics. Acting somewhat as Senate majority leader in absentia, Citizen Dole has used his influence with some former colleagues to ditch two key pieces of legislation -- a wide-ranging reform of immigration laws and ratification of a Chemical Weapons Convention crafted during the Bush administration.
Both measures are believed to have fairly wide public support. Both are now in coma due to poison pill amendments prescribed by Mr. Dole. One can only hope that after election passions wane, wiser counsels will prevail.
The roadblock on immigration reform is due to a Dole-backed amendment that would allow states to deny public schooling to children of illegal immigrants. "I can't believe they are doing this," lamented Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., an ally of the GOP nominee for president.
The treaty dealing with poison gas was put on the back burner after the Clinton administration spurned killer amendments that would have prevented its implementation until Iraq, Libya and North Korea ratify it, thus giving these rogue states veto power. Another Republican, Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, said the whole process has been "politicized" in ways harmful to U.S. foreign policy.
The Chemical Manufacturers Association, fearful of setbacks in international trade, complained that treaty opponents have "disfigured and distorted [it] beyond recognition." But hard-line unilateralists, such as Sens. Jesse Helms and Jon Kyl, contend that international controls under the convention would add to the costs of small chemical companies.
It is a shame that a treaty aimed at reducing stockpiles of mustard gas, nerve agents and other deadly chemicals has fallen victim to U.S. domestic politics. This country was its
foremost advocate, not least because an estimated 30,000 tons of Russian chemical weapons are vulnerable to theft and misuse terrorists and pariah governments. Now Moscow can continue to abstain. Now the votes of only a handful of foreign nations can put the treaty into effect without U.S. participation.
Just as the U.S. needs to control immigration, so it needs to play a leading role in policing a treaty that would ban manufacture as well as use of chemical weaponry. Once the election is over, both issues require resurrection.
Pub Date: 9/14/96