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Michael Douglas and Ellen Tauscher team up for nuclear zero

Actor Michael Douglas has been in Washington all week to advocate for nuclear non-proliferation and funding for diplomacy in today’s budget-cutting environment. He and Undersecretary of State for Arms Control Ellen Tauscher sat down on Thursday at the State Department for an interview with The Cable. "I’m here to see if anything can be accomplished ...

Ben Chang / State Department
Ben Chang / State Department
Ben Chang / State Department

Actor Michael Douglas has been in Washington all week to advocate for nuclear non-proliferation and funding for diplomacy in today's budget-cutting environment. He and Undersecretary of State for Arms Control Ellen Tauscher sat down on Thursday at the State Department for an interview with The Cable.

"I'm here to see if anything can be accomplished in the area of nuclear disarmament before the elections," Douglas said in our interview. "You get a message constantly that nothing is going to be done between now and [the election]... but I don't think we can wait around for a year and half."

Actor Michael Douglas has been in Washington all week to advocate for nuclear non-proliferation and funding for diplomacy in today’s budget-cutting environment. He and Undersecretary of State for Arms Control Ellen Tauscher sat down on Thursday at the State Department for an interview with The Cable.

"I’m here to see if anything can be accomplished in the area of nuclear disarmament before the elections," Douglas said in our interview. "You get a message constantly that nothing is going to be done between now and [the election]… but I don’t think we can wait around for a year and half."

Calling himself a "messenger of peace" in the area of disarmament, Douglas said he was "try[ing] to see if Congress won’t calm down a little bit" in its efforts to cut funding for nuclear non-proliferation programs.

Douglas met for 30 minutes Thursday with Tauscher, Deputy Secretary Tom Nides, Assistant Secretary Rose Gottemoeller, and Assistant Secretary Tom Countryman.

"Obama is not the first president to talk about going to nuclear zero, but he is the first one to put a blueprint forward and to have acted on it," Tauscher told The Cable, noting that the New START agreement was ratified in a politically fraught environment. "That victory is momentous, but it’s not the end of the agenda."

Tauscher said the drive to work toward a world without nuclear weapons will continue from now until the election, but warned that the prospects of seeing a Senate ratification of key agenda items, such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), is "very unlikely." She noted, however, that "there is a lot of work to do" in the meantime to explain why CTBT is needed and why it is more verifiable in 2011 due to the advances in policy and technology compared to when it last came up for Senate ratification in 1999.

Douglas has been making the rounds in Washington since his arrival in town last week. We spotted him at the reception to celebrate the Diplomatic Reception Rooms on Oct. 18 and then met him again at a Nov. 1 meeting on Capitol Hill of the board of directors of the Ploughshares Fund, an organization that supports the arms control agenda.

Douglas also sat down on Thursday morning with some members of the State Department press corps to make the case for defending spending on diplomacy and development.

"These soundbites about why are we spending money overseas when we have such economic times in this country, people don’t take the time to understand just how important diplomacy is," Douglas said. "It takes a lot of time, it’s quiet, but it certainly is a lot less expensive than going to war."

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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