“The Cold War ended more than two decades ago, and today American nuclear strategy finally caught up with history,” as the Obama administration has recognized “the greatest threat is no longer all-out nuclear war, but the chance that just one weapon will fall into the hands of a terrorist or rogue state,” an effusive David Martin declared on Tuesday’s CBS Evening News.
His story, unlike those on ABC and NBC, assumed the new policy -- that ends the threat of using nuclear weapons against a nation that attacks the U.S. with chemical or biological weapons so long as they don’t develop nuclear weapons – reflects unchallenged wisdom and has no detractors.
“For the first time ever,” Martin trumpeted, “the new policy limits the circumstances under which the U.S. would resort to nuclear weapons, assuring nations which do not have them and do not try to get them they have nothing to worry about.” As if they now have a legitimate fear of the U.S. annihilating them with a nuclear attack.
ABC’s Jake Tapper, in contrast, recognized not all are thrilled with eliminating a threat which has kept America safe for decades as he also noted the new policy contradicts what Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said in 2008:
The most controversial part of what's called the “Nuclear Posture Review,” the pledge to not use nuclear weapons against any country that has signed and is abiding by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, even if those countries attack the U.S. with chemical and biological weapons. In a statement, Republican Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl expressed concerns that “the Obama administration must clarify that we will take no option off the table to deter attacks against the American people and our allies.”
Only 18 months ago, it was Defense Secretary Robert Gates who said the U.S. nuclear arsenal worked as a threat against Saddam Hussein's possible use of chemical and biological weapons during the first Gulf War.
On the NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams painted Obama as going down the middle, disappointing both conservatives and liberals:
President Obama today took a step toward his stated goal of a nuclear weapons-free world. Tonight he's taking criticism from all sides for it. The President's new strategy sets new limits on when nuclear weapons could be used, and the big change is that the U.S. pledges not to use nukes against non-nuclear nations of the world, even to retaliate for a biological or chemical attack. Conservatives don't like the plan because they say it weakens the nation. Liberals wanted the President to go even further and say the U.S. would never be the first to use nuclear weapons.
The MRC’s Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide transcripts of the stories on the Tuesday, April 6 CBS and ABC evening newscasts:
CBS Evening News:
MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: And we begin here with major developments on nuclear weapons. President Obama heads to Prague tomorrow to sign a treaty with Russia to reduce the number of nuclear warheads on both sides. And today the President announced a change in policy for when and under what circumstances the U.S. would use nuclear weapons. Here's national security correspondent David Martin.
DAVID MARTIN: The Cold War ended more than two decades ago, and today American nuclear strategy finally caught up with history. Under the new policy adopted by the Obama administration, the greatest threat is no longer all-out nuclear war, but the chance that just one weapon will fall into the hands of a terrorist or rogue state.
ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Given al-Qaeda's continued quest for nuclear weapons, Iran's ongoing nuclear efforts and North Korea's proliferation, this focus is appropriate and, indeed, essential, an essential change from previous reviews.
MARTIN: Nations have always viewed nuclear weapons as weapons of last resort, but for a terrorist they would be the first choice, which accounts for this truly alarming prediction by Graham Allison of Harvard University.
GRAHAM ALLISON, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: It is more likely than not within the next five years there's a successful nuclear or biological terrorist attack somewhere in the world.
MARTIN: For the first time ever, the new policy limits the circumstances under which the U.S. would resort to nuclear weapons, assuring nations which do not have them and do not try to get them they have nothing to worry about. But when it comes to nuclear wannabes like North Korea and Iran or terrorist groups like al-Qaeda, American policy is just as threatening as it always was.
GATES: All options are on the table when it comes to countries in that category.
MARTIN: Stopping the spread of nuclear weapons is a first step toward President Obama's ultimate goal of eliminating them, but he is bucking some powerful history. The number of countries with nuclear weapons has gone from one to nine in the past 65 years.
THOMAS DONNELLY, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: The world is telling us by their behavior that whereas we think nuclear weapons are less important, everybody else thinks they're more important.
MARTIN: Secretary of State Clinton called the new policy a milestone, but if the goal is to eliminate nuclear weapons, it will be a very long road. David Martin, CBS News, the Pentagon.
ABC’s World News:
DIANE SAWYER: President Obama today announced major changes in America's nuclear strategy, an overhaul that would scale back the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. defense plans and put unprecedented limits on when they could be used. The President calls it a significant step, but critics say it could weaken the country's ability to defend itself. Here's Jake Tapper.
JAKE TAPPER: The new policy restricts the use of nuclear weapons, and the Obama administration insists it won't make America less safe.
HILLARY CLINTON: We are reducing the role and number of weapons in our arsenal while maintaining a safe, secure and effective deterrent to protect our nation, allies and partners.
TAPPER: The most controversial part of what's called the "Nuclear Posture Review," the pledge to not use nuclear weapons against any country that has signed and is abiding by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, even if those countries attack the U.S. with chemical and biological weapons. In a statement, Republican Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl expressed concerns that "the Obama administration must clarify that we will take no option off the table to deter attacks against the American people and our allies." Only 18 months ago, it was Defense Secretary Robert Gates who said the U.S. nuclear arsenal worked as a threat against Saddam Hussein's possible use of chemical and biological weapons during the first Gulf War.
ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We later learned that this veiled threat had the intended deterrent effect as Iraq considered its options.
TAPPER: He now disagrees with that?
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If we see that a country greatly expands its biological or chemical weapons capability, the posture review calls for the ability to re-evaluate any assurances that have been given.
TAPPER: Less controversial, the new policy is intended as a signal to Iran and North Korea.
GATES: There is a message for Iran and North Korea here. It is that if you're not going to play by the rules, if you're going to be a proliferation, then all options are on the table in terms of how we deal with you.
TAPPER: And, Diane, this announcement comes just two days before the President signs a nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia and a week before he hosts a nuclear security summit here in Washington, D.C. President Obama believes his argument to other countries that they should not pursue nuclear weapons or they should disarm will be made is seen as leading in those areas. Diane?
SAWYER: A nuclear policy week ahead as well. Thank you, Jake.