The Senate opened debate yesterday on the nomination of Paul C. Warnke as presidential arms control adviser and negotiator, with slashing attacks on Warnke's personal integrity by four critics and a counter-charge by Sen. John Sparkman (D-Ala.) that many Warnke opponents "are in reality attacking the President."
The Senate will take separate votes Wednesday on Warnke's nominations to head the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and to be chief negotiator at the forthcoming arms control talks with Russia.
Crticis of Warnke, asserting he has a record of opposing new US. weapons systems and advocating "soft" positions in negotiations, are focusing on his nomination as negotiator. His approval to head the arms agency seems assured by a wide margin; although he also seems likely to win approval as negotiator, that margin will probably be smaller.
"With luck we could make it even closer," said one Republican jubilantly. Former United Nations Ambassador Daniel P. Moynihan (D-N.Y.) and S. I. Hayakawa (R-Calif.) both announced opposition to the negotiator job yesterday.
Hayakawa and Robert P. Griffin (R-Mich.), another opponent, flatly accused Warnke of having sent senators a long clarification of his views which, by dropping a comma from a statement he made in 1972, altered its meaning to make it appear that he had not changed his views on numerical missile superiority.
Hayakawa, a semanticist, said dropping the comma had changed a restrictive clause to a nonrestrictive clause. Hayakawa said the document as submitted by Warnke said, "I specifically stated (in 1972 that 'numerical superiority which is not translatable into either any sort of military capability or any sort of political potential has no purpose'."
Hayakawa and Griffin said Warnke had actually written in 1972 that "there is no purpose in either side's achieving a numerical superiority, which is not translatable into either any sort of military or any sort of political potential."
According to Hayakawa and Griffin, the 1977 version without the comma means numerical superiority is useless unless it can be translated into military or political potential, while the 1972 version with the comma means numerical superiority is useless altogether.
The new, allegedly "doctored" version implies Warnke had opposed numerical superiority only if it couldn't be converted to military or political strength, they said, while the original version shows he had flatly concluded numerical superiority was useless.
Warnke was also accused by Sens. Henry M Jackson (D-Wash.) and Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) of completely altering his previous "soft" views in order to win confirmation.
Asserting that Warnke had previously favored huge U.S. arms cuts and unilateral disarmament moves, and had ignored the Soviet nuclear build-up but then switched positions when testifying on his nomination, Jackson said, "Mr Warnke has adopted the line he thinks most likely to secure his confirmation."
Warnke was strongly defended by Frank Church (D-Idoho), Sparkman, George McGovern (D-S.D.) and Dale Bumpers (D-Ark.), who asserted, "Paul Warnke said everything that I'd like to hear a man say who doesn't want his children and grandchildren incinerated."
McGovern, who carried most of the load for the nomination yesterday, said the notion the Soviets are getting ahead or are moving to unsettle the nuclear balance is "ridiculous."
"For each Soviet city ever 100,000 people the United States now has a total of 38 warheads," he declared. "The United States had a dramatic lead over the Soviet Union in strategic arms, The United States can separately target 8,500 warheads, compared to 4,000 for the Soviets . . . with a commanding lead" in accuracy.