It’s still not official official but it’s looking more and more like it’s sort of kind of official at this point. Having backed down on Susan Rice, the President isn’t in the mood to be kicked around anymore and he’s going to move forward on nominating Hagel for SecDef. Or so the latest round of claims would lead us to believe.
WASHINGTON — President Obama is expected to nominate Chuck Hagel, a former Republican senator and Vietnam veteran, to be Defense secretary, officials said, setting up a confirmation battle with lawmakers and interest groups critical of Hagel’s views on Israel and Iran.
White House officials said Friday that the president hadn’t formally offered the job to Hagel, but others familiar with the process said that the announcement could come as soon as Monday.
This could easily turn into another column on the various alleged sins or proclaimed virtues of Chuck Hagel and why Obama should or shouldn’t nominate him, but honestly… that horse has been beaten well past the glue factory stage. There are two other points I’d like to address today – one brief and one a bit more detailed.
First, consider why exactly Barack Obama would pluck Hagel out of the national flock for this responsibility. The two men surely don’t agree on every line item of government policy – though they obviously share some beliefs on matters of foreign policy – and the President could easily find a naturally occurring Democrat to fill the role. What does Hagel bring to the table that somebody like Wes Clark doesn’t? My thinking on this is that it could readily be part of Obama’s recently successful, “my way or the media will blame you down the highway” approach. The strategy from the bully pulpit in this new season is looking more and more like an iron fist in an iron glove as long as they hold both the White House and the Senate. And if the GOP manages to defeat a Hagel nomination, just wait until Obama and Reid stonewall on things like the debt ceiling and any future cost cutting issues. The President is prepping the answer, “Look. These guys are so intent on shutting Washington down that they wouldn’t even confirm a member of their own party when I nominated him.”
What do you think, Alex? “Survey says… the public could buy it.”
The second point is a bit more from the ten thousand foot level. Remind me again why the “advise and consent” role has gotten to the point where we should be expending political capital to defeat the nomination of somebody we don’t agree with on this or that? If you let the blood seep back out of your eyeballs and think about it, this has very little chance of accomplishing anything productive. Why? Because the next person that Obama nominates isn’t likely to be substantially different.
Further, it strikes me as rather silly to base our opposition to any nominee for any cabinet position based on their own personal beliefs. The members of the cabinet are put in those offices to project the policy and opinions of the President, not their own. And if they fail – as they have previously in spectacular fashion – the final judgment about the failure is laid at the feet of the President, not the cabinet member. At the end of the day, the responsibility for all of their actions is his and his alone, whether he (or she) wishes to own up to it or not.
If a president nominates someone who can be shown to lack the fundamental skills and abilities to perform their duties, then clearly the Senate needs to intervene if possible. But that’s a fairly low bar to reach in most cases if we’re really being honest. The President won the election and he gets to populate his cabinet for the most part. Shooting down his nominees like we’re in some sort of target range may feel good and score some political points with the base, but it also helps Obama construct the argument about the Party of No, which he’s been pretty good at lately.
Be careful what you wish for.