As we have documented in previous BMD Focus columns, the Democrat-controlled 110th Congress has forged an unexpectedly robust coalition to maintain and further develop BMD.
However, that consensus broke down when it came to funding the Bush administration's plans to build a base for 10 ground-based mid-course interceptors in Poland and a second base to house the advanced radar systems to guide them in the Czech Republic. The Democrats now running Congress have been unwilling to risk the controversy of axing the bases outright, but they did cut and defer some funding for them.
As long as a Democratic candidate looked almost certain to win the U.S. presidential election in November, Democrats in Congress could be confident that they would not have to risk responsibility for scrapping the European BMD bases because either a President Hillary Clinton or -- even more likely -- a President Barack Obama would do so right after taking office.
However, over the past few months Clinton and Obama have pummeled and weakened each other in their long struggle for the Democratic presidential nomination, while Sen. John McCain of Arizona has decisively surged ahead to virtually guarantee the Republican one. And McCain, like his fellow Arizonan, Republican Sen. Jon Kyl, is 100 percent in favor of building the Central European bases.
McCain's dominant position in the Republican Party contrasts sharply with the Obama-Clinton civil war tearing the Democratic Party apart. Even if Obama retains his lead to secure the nomination, he now faces a far more difficult task of winning the support of traditionally Democratic white working-class voters alienated by the revelations of repeated anti-white racial remarks by his longtime pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. And if Clinton wins, she faces the possible defection of millions of African-American voters because of her bare-knuckle tactics against Obama.
The dramatic rise in McCain's fortunes greatly strengthened President Bush's negotiating hand at the NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, last week.
Bush flew to Bucharest, not as the lame-duck leader whose defense policies were virtually certain to be repudiated by a successor from the opposition party come January, but as a leader whose most likely successor was determined to push ahead forcefully with the same BMD policies in Europe.
This new and unexpected political dynamic greatly strengthened Bush's main allies in Bucharest -- Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Nicholas Sarkozy of France. And it greatly inhibited more wobbly figures like Prime Minister Donald Tusk of Poland, Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain and newly re-elected Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain.
Although Bush is struggling with a very serious economic crisis at home with worries over fiscal stability and the dead word "recession" now openly discussed, he showed an unexpected resilience in his foreign policy clout in Bucharest. Because of that, the plan for the new BMD bases in Poland and the Czech Republic is still alive and kicking.