The Politics Of Nuclear Security And Court Nominees This week President Obama and Russian President Dimitri Medvedev signed an arms reduction treaty in advance of the nuclear summit in Washington, D.C. Also, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced he will retire this summer. Host Liane Hansen talks about the week's political headlines with NPR's Mara Liasson.
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The Politics Of Nuclear Security And Court Nominees

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The Politics Of Nuclear Security And Court Nominees

The Politics Of Nuclear Security And Court Nominees

The Politics Of Nuclear Security And Court Nominees

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This week President Obama and Russian President Dimitri Medvedev signed an arms reduction treaty in advance of the nuclear summit in Washington, D.C. Also, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced he will retire this summer. Host Liane Hansen talks about the week's political headlines with NPR's Mara Liasson.

LIANE HANSEN, Host:

Joining us now is NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Hi, Mara.

MARA LIASSON: Hi, Liane.

HANSEN: President Obama will be taking his place on the world stage this week addressing one of his key issues. Do you think his focus on nuclear security has had an effect on U.S. policy or the negotiations?

LIASSON: He also recently signed a START treaty, a new START treaty, with Russia. He's put out a new nuclear posture review where he said that the United States would not develop any new nuclear warheads, although there is a little wiggle room there. So, he certainly has made this a centerpiece of his national security policy.

HANSEN: You mention a START treaty, which the president signed when he was Prague just a few days ago. The Senate has to ratify that treaty by a two- thirds majority. How likely is that to happen?

LIASSON: Well, we don't know yet. Two-thirds is 67 votes. That's a lot of votes in a Senate that struggled to get 60 for the health care bill. But this treaty does have bipartisan support, starting with Richard Lugar, the influential Republican senator. And Republicans are going to have to decide if they want to try to defeat this or maybe, which might be more likely, just slow it down.

HANSEN: NPR's Michele Kelemen, we heard her report about some of the bilateral meetings that will be taking place during the summit this week. Will Iran figure prominently in those discussions?

KELEMEN: So far he hasn't gotten that cooperation, even though Russia has said some encouraging things about sanctions. They've also said that the toughest kind of sanctions, which would cut off some oil and gas supplies to Iran - of course, that would also disrupt Russia's commercial relationship with Iran, is off the table. So, it's going to be a tough sell for the president.

HANSEN: Mara, I want to turn a corner to talk about Congress. It returns this week. They have overhauling the financial regulations at the top of the agenda. Tell us what you know about how that debate is shaping up.

LIASSON: But this one doesn't look like the kind of partisan standoff like the health care bill did. Now, whether the substance of the financial regulation legislation will be strong enough to fix the system of incentives that lead to the financial crisis in the first place is a whole other question.

HANSEN: Finally, Mara, the big news: Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced his retirement. He'll step down this summer. Do you already hear the beginnings of a big political fight brewing?

LIASSON: If the president is willing to have more of a fight, he would nominate a more liberal judge, someone like Diane Wood. Now, once he does, which is expected to happen in the next couple of weeks, the Republicans then have to decide a very basic question, which is how much of an ideological fight they want to have. They can't just stand down because their base would be very disappointed, but they have to decide how hard they're going to fight. Remember, they ended up not fighting that hard against Sonia Sotomayor. So, right now the Republicans are in a wait-and-see mode.

HANSEN: NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Thanks, Mara.

LIASSON: Thank you, Liane.

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