Washington Watch: Back in D.C., ex-Sen. Nunn sees progress in nuclear threat reduction

WASHINGTON -- Despite all the time former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn still spends in Washington, on most days he'd rather be back home in Atlanta.

"I can handle Washington much better as a visitor than as a resident," Nunn told me last week while in town.

Even though he retired from the Senate in 1996 after 24 years of representing Georgia, Nunn still spends about eight days a month in Washington as CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonprofit that works to reduce global threats from nuclear and other weapons. Nunn and Ted Turner are co-chairs of the organization.

Right now, though, Nunn is pretty happy to be in D.C.

That's because beginning Monday, more than 40 heads of state from around the globe will arrive in Washington to discuss exactly what Nunn and his colleagues at the Nuclear Threat Initiative have been talking about for years: how to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons.

"For those of us who have been laboring in this field for the last 10 years, this … is enormous," Nunn said. "It will be very gratifying."

The past week was pretty gratifying for Nunn, too.

Last Tuesday, President Barack Obama released a formal pledge to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in the nation's security arsenal. On Thursday, Obama was in Prague to sign a new nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia.

"There's a lot suddenly happening at once -- and it's not over yet," said Nunn, who chaired the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee while in Congress. "The number of conferences and treaties and … statements and negotiations over the next couple of month are unprecedented -- no doubt about it."

Before leaving for Prague, Obama hosted Nunn and others at the White House to discuss nuclear issues and to screen a documentary film that Nunn's group helped produce called "Nuclear Tipping Point."

Joining Nunn and Obama were an all-star cast of elder statesmen including former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger, George Shultz and Colin Powell and former Defense Secretary William Perry. All are in the movie.

Nunn, 71, who has served as an outside adviser to Obama, said the movie screening went well.

"It was serious," he said. "I mean, there's not a lot of jokes in there, and as far as I know, there's absolutely no sex."

The documentary describes the dangerous consequences if terrorist groups get their hands on a nuclear weapon. (You can order a copy free at www.nucleartippingpoint.org.)

Nunn has no formal role in the nuclear weapons summit that will dominate Washington in the week ahead.

But he will be watching the conference closely -- at least until Wednesday, when he leaves town to hit the road again to give a speech about nuclear threats.

The next stop on Nunn's itinerary may be even more fitting than Washington:

Hiroshima, Japan.

Congress returns

Congress comes back to work Tuesday after a two-week break, and already Washington is bracing for gridlock -- and not just political.

When members of Congress and much of their staffs return to Washington, they'll join tens of thousands of tourists in town to experience Washington's now-waning cherry blossoms and see the sights.

Throw in the big nuclear summit, and you've got the makings of a transportation nightmare that could rival the worst Atlanta has to offer.

Spring Break ‘10 -- politics style

So what's a congressman who's up for re-election do during spring break?

If you're Democratic U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop of Albany, who's facing a potentially tough race in November, you hand out money and awards to the folks back home.

A sampling of Bishop's schedule in the past week:

Tuesday: Bishop picked winners from his district in the annual high school Congressional Art Competition. Winner Sara Barge's color pencil drawing will hang in the U.S. Capitol for one year.

Wednesday: Bishop presented a check for $25,000, raised at a breakfast he hosted, to the House of Mercy homeless shelter in Columbus.

Friday: Bishop presented a Recovery Act check for $8,191 to Flint Cable TV in Reynolds. The company was awarded a federal grant to expand the region's Internet broadband service.

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