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Romney Thinks Stopping Spread of Nuclear Weapons is a Liberal Issue - Huh?

Jul 12, 2008 | Updated May 25, 2011

In an interview with John Roberts of CNN, potential vice presidential nominee Mitt Romney dismissed Barack Obama's bipartisanship accomplishments as being achieved on liberal issues.

Hmmm... John Roberts found that perplexing, as did Richard Lugar. Roberts writes:

McCain hopes to paint Obama as a politician who puts party and self-interest above the needs of the nation, claiming that Obama has "never been a part of a bipartisan group that came together to solve a controversial issue."

Romney faithfully repeated that charge Thursday morning.

When I pointed out that Obama reached across party lines to work with Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Indiana, on a nonproliferation measure, and with Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Oregon, on increasing gas mileage requirements, Romney shot back, saying that, "Actually, on both cases, you're talking about two liberal positions, nonproliferation as well as the gasoline mileage."

It struck me as rather odd -- having covered five years of the Bush administration as a White House correspondent -- that the governor would view nonproliferation as a "liberal" issue. I seem to recall a little ditty called the "Proliferation Security Initiative," launched by President Bush on May 31, 2003.

The aim of the initiative is to enlist the nations of the world to "stop trafficking of weapons of mass destruction, their delivery systems and related materials to and from states and non-state actors of proliferation concern."

Whether the program is a success is very much in question (though the administration claims it is), but I've never heard anyone call it a "liberal" position.

So what about the Lugar-Obama measure -- conceived as an adjunct to the Proliferation Security Initiative? Did it qualify as "liberal?"

Here's how Sen. Lugar's office described it in a press release: "The Lugar-Obama initiative enhances U.S. efforts to destroy conventional weapons stockpiles and to detect and interdict weapons and materials of mass destruction throughout the world."

Lugar has a bit of a middling score from the American Conservative Union (a lifetime rating of 78.02 on a scale that goes to 100) and has been called a "moderate' from time to time. But "liberal?"

I asked Lugar's press secretary, Andy Fisher, about it Thursday morning.

"National security is not liberal," he told me, "at all."

Exactly.