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Putting the START debate to the Truth-O-Meter

By Louis Jacobson
Published on Tuesday, November 30th, 2010 at 10:24 a.m.

One of the most high-profile debates arising as lawmakers head into a lame-duck session is whether to ratify a new START treaty to control nuclear arms, as the Obama Administration wants. Beginning today, and over the next few days, PolitiFact will look at statements made by figures on both sides of the divide.

The treaty would enact modest nuclear-weapons reductions and extend verification provisions that lapsed last year. Most Democrats and many foreign-policy professionals favor ratification of the new treaty, which would require 67 votes in the Senate. But the effort has run into problems with Senate Republicans, particularly with Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona.

Kyl is the subject of our first START fact-check.

On the Nov. 28, 2010, edition of NBC's Meet the Press, host David Gregory grilled Kyl on his concerns about the treaty. We won't get far into the policy details here, but we do think that fact-checking one portion of the dialogue might help illuminate a key element of the debate -- namely, whether delaying ratification would put national security at risk.

Here's a portion of what Kyl said:

"First of all, let me quote the Washington Post, which directly addressed the question that you asked. 'No calamity will befall the United States if the Senate does not act this year.' And in response to the charge that somehow we need to do this for the urgency of needing verification, the Associated Press did a fact-check on that allegation and said, 'The urgency is political. Even the administration concedes the security risk is not immediate.'"

We looked at the original published items and concluded that the way Kyl abridged them amounts to cherry-picking. He selectively quoted from the accounts, leaving viewers with a distinctly different impression than they would have had if they'd read the items in their entirety. So we rated his comment Half True.

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