THE LOGIC OF SOME of those opposing Paul Warnke's nomination as arms control director and SALT negotiator is bizarre. If they said they did not share his view that sensible arms control, like sensible arms building, can strengthen national security, that would be understandable. We're on Mr. Warnke's side, but one can argue it. But instead, the more determined Warnke opponents, offering no substantial larger rationale, claim they can cripple him by stacking up 40 or more votes against him for the post of SALT negotiator. For the politically less sensitive post of arms control director, his confirmations by a big majority seems assured.
Why do his foes wish to cripple a nominee they cannot defeat? More to the point, why do they wish to cripple President Carter, whose policies (not Mr. Warnke's own) Mr. Warnke would be following? Why do they wish, as Victor Zorza suggests on the opposite page, to play into the hands of Soviet hawks? Why do they ignore the existence of a built-in safety net that the Senate itself provides: the simple fact that any treaty negotiated by Mr. Warnke on behalf of - and under instructions from - the administration must come back to the Senate for ratification?
The theory is heard that this represents the last-ditch stance of those who fear that Mr. Carter, his campaign hints notwithstanding, is serious about trying by negotiations to reduce the risks and costs and strains of relations with the Russians. Broadly speaking, the contrary view is that Moscow will respond, if at all, only to repeated demonstrations of strength and will. Yet the weeks-long assault on Mr. Warnke has shed virtually all pretense of being a resoned debate. Astonishingly enough, it has finally come down to the petty nitpicking matter of whether Mr. Warnke removed a comma from a copy of some 1972 testimony he recently distributed in the Senate.
With the comma, the words in question imply that if the Russians had nuclear superiority it should not worry Americans; without the comma, the implication is that Russian superiority should worry us. We find it absurd to think that Mr. Warnke or any other serious person would advance the former view. In fact, by his own account, he did not. The original testimony had been given orally.The original comma resulted from a typographical error in a transcript. Sen. Edmund Muskie, for one, drawing on seven years of close consultations with Mr. Warnke, yesterday vouched for his consistency and integrity in the strongest terms.
The vote on Mr. Warnke comes today. Everyone grants there's no problem in his becoming Arms Control and Disarmament Agency director. If, say, about 35 senators vote to deny him the second hat as SALT negotiator, that would be something he could work with and perhaps even profit from; that total could bolster the American negotiating position by allowing the Carter administration to indicate to the Russians that it must take due account of conservative sentiment at home.But if something like 40 or more senators vote against Mr. Warnke, then the administration's arms control hand will have been materially weakened and that of the Soviet hawks correspondingly strengthened. Do Senator Jackson and his fellow members of the attack squad really want to take the responsibility for crippling the Carter administration in its exercise of one of the principal means available for enhancing the security of the United States?