What are we to make of these two statements, one by Senator Jon Kyl and the other by Representative Michael Turner?

A central tenet of the Obama Administration’s security policy is that, if the U.S. ‘leads by example’ we can ‘reassert our moral leadership’ and influence other nations to do things. It is the way the President intends to advance his goal of working toward a world free of nuclear weapons and to deal with the stated twin top priorities of the Administration: nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism.

A central tenet of the Obama Administration’s security policy is that, if the U.S. “leads by example” we can “reassert our moral leadership” and influence other nations to do things relevant to our nonproliferation goals.   It is the way the President intends to advance his goal of working toward a world free of nuclear weapons and to deal with the stated twin top priorities of the Administration: nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism.

No, I didn’t make a mistake. The statements are identical, save for the clause “relevant to our nonproliferation goals.”  Representative Turner plagiarized a passage from one of Senator Kyl’s speeches. Didn’t Joe Biden get in trouble for this?

Anyway, the plagiarism doesn’t really bother me.  We all know that members of Congress don’t write their own speeches. At least one of Senator Kyl’s staffers moved over to Representative Turner’s office, which may explain why Turner is now recycling Kyl’s old speeches.

What really bothers me is the use of punctuation — in English, inverted commas, also called quotation marks, are used for quotations. You know this, right?

But, as far as I can tell, Barack Obama never said such a thing.  Nor are these talking points used by Administration officials.  Senator Kyl, or someone on his staff, made them up.

Try the following search string: “reassert our moral leadership” site:.gov

The only result is Kyl’s speech! No evidence that anyone in the Obama Administration made such a (silly) remark. If you think about it, the phrase does sound like a right-wing parody of a liberal perspective.

“Leads by example” is a pretty common phrase; not surprising it does appear in many contexts. Let’s restrict the search a bit more to nonproliferation.  Try these three (1|2|3).  One result — Susan Rice making a general point about US leadership.

I altered the search string until I finally found a lone instance of an Obama Administration official, Susan Burk, using “lead by example” (with no s) in a nonproliferation context.  The statement is self-congratulatory — look at all we’re going to do to lead by example — and not different in context than this remark by John Wolf, Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation, in 2003.

My best guess is that someone simply made up both quotes, figuring the phrases sounded like something a liberal might say, then added the quotation marks to attribute them to the ”Obama Administration.” Senator Kyl, after all, gave us the internet meme “not intended to be a factual statement.” Representative Turner then plagiarized the made-up quotations.

Perhaps the fabricator did hear the statements, or something very like them. I have noted before that this is the preferred calumny of those opposed to the whole business of arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation. Conservatives have repeated this nonsense so much, they may actually believe this is what liberals think.

What I actually believe — and presume others do as well — should be obvious: in negotiations with other countries, sometimes they ask for things in return. This isn’t “leading by example” or “reasserting moral leadership,” it is diplomacy. China, for example, won’t ratify the CTBT unless we do.  Sometimes, diplomats make side deals involving peripheral matters.  Other times, diplomats make unreasonable demands to stall. But sometimes they make demands because that’s what they want.  The reasons for specific positions may vary based on time and place. Some observable patterns in diplomacy, such as the emphasis on equity and reciprocity, may be better explained by cognitive psychology than international-relations theory. But when we ask for things, states ask for other things in return.

Who thinks otherwise?  Does anyone really think he or she can just walk into a room, table a draft treaty, then ask who wants to sign first?

Well, actually, that is precisely what the Bush Administration did at least once.  Steve Rademaker waltzed into the Conference on Disarmament on May 2006, released a draft fissile material cut-off treaty, said, “It’s all here,” and proposed that the States Party sign “by the end of this year.” (In case you were wondering, the end of the year for the CD in 2006 was September 15.)

Those, by the way, are not made-up quotes.  Rademaker actually said them, along with a few other barbs about “hostage taking” and “pet ideas.” I did, however,  make up the line in my blog post, stating that Article 1 said the States Party undertook to kiss Rademaker’s ass. You can steal that, if you want.