Daschle Sees Policy Success on ABM Talks

Article excerpt

Byline: Dave Boyer

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle yesterday retreated from his criticism of President Bush's foreign policy in the wake of the president's missile-defense agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"It appears to have been successful," Mr. Daschle told The Washington Times of the president's deal to begin negotiations on supplanting the ABM Treaty with a missile defense shield and link it to bilateral cuts in nuclear stockpiles.

But Mr. Daschle quickly added, "I don't know that I can make any public comment about an assessment until I've been adequately briefed by the administration. I would like more information."

Meanwhile, the South Dakota Democrat dismissed talk by his counterpart in the House, Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, that congressional Democrats likely would raise taxes if the federal budget surplus vanished.

"I think it's far too early to come to any conclusion about changing the tax code," Mr. Daschle said. "Most of us believe that we can live within the [budget] constraints, as tight as they are, and that at the very least whatever changes ought to be done in concert with the administration."

On foreign policy, Mr. Daschle was accused of poor diplomacy last week for criticizing the administration as isolationist just as Mr. Bush was departing for Europe and a summit with Group of Eight world leaders.

"I think we are isolating ourselves, and in so isolating ourselves, I think we're minimizing ourselves," Mr. Daschle said one week ago. "I don't think we are taken as seriously today as we were a few years ago."

But Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, said yesterday he was impressed by Mr. Bush's deal with Mr. Putin.

"I thought it was a welcome shift in the rhetoric," Mr. Levin said. "I don't see that there's any substantive shift yet on the part of either [nation]. There is a rhetorical shift so far on the part of both, a greater willingness to engage in intensive consultations. That's the way it should be."

Mr. Daschle would not be drawn into a substantive discussion yesterday of Mr. Bush's handling of Russia and the ABM Treaty. He chose to focus instead on the administration's decision not to be bound by the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.

"As I said last week, the more we isolate ourselves, the more we minimize ourselves," Mr. Daschle said. "And I think when it comes to the environmental issues, we are minimizing ourselves. That's a dangerous position for the United States to be in."

Various European leaders this week urged Mr. Bush to agree to the Kyoto treaty; the president pledged that the United States would work to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions but not within the framework of the pact. …