Cornyn: Count me as a “no” on Hagel

posted at 9:21 am on January 10, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Senator John Cornyn’s CNN column this morning doesn’t exactly come as a shock.  He’s been vocal about his opposition to former colleague Chuck Hagel’s nomination to Secretary of Defense ever since Barack Obama made it public.  Unlike most of the media attention on Hagel’s comments on other topics, though, Cornyn focuses on the key issue — Hagel’s seeming indifference to one of the most dangerous threats facing the US at the moment:

One of the biggest foreign-policy challenges of Obama’s second term is preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons — which means we need a defense secretary who understands the nature and magnitude of the Iranian threat. Based on his record, Hagel does not.

In July 2001, 96 U.S. senators voted to extend sanctions against Iran. Chuck Hagel was one of only two senators who voted against sanctions. A year later, he urged the Bush administration to support Iranian membership in the World Trade Organization.

Even more disturbing, Hagel voted against a 2007 measure that called for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to be designated a terrorist group. (At the time, the IRGC was aiding and equipping Shiite militias that were murdering U.S. troops in Iraq.) A few weeks after this vote, Hagel sent a letter to President George W. Bush asking him to launch “direct, unconditional, and comprehensive talks” with the Iranian government, which the State Department has labeled a state sponsor of terrorism every year since 1984. …

Finally, in his 2008 book, “America: Our Next Chapter,” Hagel appeared to suggest that the United States could live with a nuclear Iran, writing that “the genie of nuclear armaments is already out of the bottle, no matter what Iran does.”

These comments and actions indicate that he does not fully appreciate the dangers of a nuclear Iran or the character of the Iranian regime. It is a regime that has effectively been at war with the United States since 1979 — a regime whose proxies (such as the terrorist group Hezbollah) have killed Americans in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. For that matter, Tehran was recently implicated in a plot to blow up a restaurant (and the Saudi ambassador) in our nation’s capital.

This is the argument I made in my column at The Week on Monday, too.  While Hagel’s comments on James Hormel in 1998 were intemperate and rude, and his remarks about “the Jewish lobby” and not being an “Israeli Senator” just plain weird, the real issue is whether Hagel represents either a consensus view on national security or even the professed Obama administration view.  In both cases, Hagel is way out on the fringe, especially on — but not limited to — Iran:

Hagel’s record on Iran may be even more suspect than in any other area. He has opposed sanctions on Iran since 2001, when he opposed the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (which passed 96-2), intended to prevent funding for terrorism or acquisition of weapons of mass destruction. Five years later, with the Iranian nuclear program exposed, Hagel gave a speech in Pakistan declaring that “a military strike against Iran, a military option, is not a viable, feasible, responsible option.” On at least three subsequent occasions, Hagel voted against or blocked sanctions or terror designations on Iran, all of which enjoyed wide bipartisan support.

So the better question is why Obama chose Hagel, especially since Hagel’s statements on Iran contradict Obama’s — at least as President:

With that in mind, what kind of signal does a Hagel nomination as the steward of American military send? Supposedly, Obama had repented of his 2008 comment that Iran was “tiny” and didn’t pose a “serious threat” to the United States. He has tried to give the impression that he learned a lesson from the weak response to the Green Revolution in 2009, and that he supported tough sanctions and a strong effort to stop the Iranian nuclear program. By naming a sanctions skeptic who also opposes the only other option to stop Iran from developing weapons of mass destruction to run the Pentagon, the future of the U.S. effort to contain Iran looks very much in doubt.

That should have supporters of Israel more worried than a remark about a “Jewish lobby” and a gay ambassador. In fact, it should have all of us worried about more than just Chuck Hagel, too, and prompt questions about Barack Obama’s intentions on Iran and security in the Middle East.

Those are the questions Senators of both parties should raise during Hagel’s confirmation hearings — assuming he ever gets to that stage.  If he does manage to make it to a confirmation hearing, Politico’s Jonathan Allen and Darren Samuelsohn warn that Hagel’s lack of people skills during his two terms in the Senate may come back to bite him:

Policy aside, Hagel’s bedeviled by his own abrasive personality. In a chamber known for back-patting and elbow-rubbing, the former Nebraska senator mostly rubbed people the wrong way. Now, on his path to the Pentagon, he has to hope that irritation doesn’t come back to bite him.

“He was respected as a colleague in the normal Senate tradition but was somewhat of a lone wolf and did not forge the deep personal relationships with his fellow Republicans that would translate into a ready reservoir of support for his nomination,” said John Ullyot, a former Marine intelligence officer who was the spokesman for the Senate Armed Services Committee under Chairman John Warner from 2003 to 2007. “On top of that, his outspokenness and blunt criticism of several Republican priorities at a critical time, including Iraq and Iran, while sincere and heartfelt, have left him without a natural platform of enthusiasm for his confirmation.”

And not just from his Senate tenure, either.  Hagel endorsed Democrat Bob Kerrey in the Nebraska Senate race last year, but Kerrey’s opponent will be sitting on the Armed Services Committee instead, and Deb Fischer is looking forward to the meeting:

One vote that will be tough for Hagel to win: that of fellow Nebraska Republican Deb Fischer. Hagel crossed party lines to back Fischer’s Democratic opponent, former Sen. Bob Kerrey, in 2012. Now, Fischer sits in judgment of Hagel as a freshman member of the Armed Services Committee, the panel that will handle his confirmation hearing.

In a statement released Monday, Fischer hinted at what could be the ultimate spectacle of a Hagel confirmation hearing: her chance to question him directly from behind the dais.

“I plan to closely review Senator Hagel’s record and look forward to meeting with him to discuss his views on America’s role in an increasingly dangerous world. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I will also have the opportunity to publicly question Senator Hagel during his confirmation hearing in the coming weeks,” she said. “This process will be thorough and fair, and I look forward to participating in it.”

She won’t be the only one looking forward to this Q&A session.


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Comment pages: 1 2

Using your logic, since “We the People” democratically elected Obama and overwhelming Democratic majorities to the House and Senate, “We the People” voted for and endorsed Obamacare. Therefore, regardless of its Constitutionality and the resultant loss of freedom, “We the People” should not protest or complain because Obama, Pelosi, and Reid implemented what “We the People” democratically voted for.

By the way, for the record I don’t vote because participating on voting legitimizes numerous policies that I oppose. Therefore I am not a part of We the People.”

antifederalist on January 10, 2013 at 12:20 PM

And using his logic, the Jews committed suicide, sending themselves to the deathcamps and gas chambers.

“Under this reasoning, any Jews murdered by the Nazi government were not murdered; instead, they must have “committed suicide,” since they were the government (which was democratically chosen), and, therefore, anything the government did to them was voluntary on their part. One would not think it necessary to belabor this point, and yet the overwhelming bulk of the people hold this fallacy to a greater or lesser degree.”

Dante on January 10, 2013 at 12:23 PM

By the way, for the record I don’t vote because participating on voting legitimizes numerous policies that I oppose. Therefore I am not a part of We the People.”

antifederalist on January 10, 2013 at 12:20 PM

Abstain From Beans

by Robert LeFevre

In ancient Athens, those who admired the Stoic philosophy of individualism took as their motto: “Abstain from Beans.” The phrase had a precise reference. It meant: don’t vote. Balloting in Athens occurred by dropping various colored beans into a receptacle.

To vote is to express a preference. There is nothing implicitly evil in choosing. All of us in the ordinary course of our daily lives vote for or against dozens of products and services. When we vote for (buy) any good or service, it follows that by salutary neglect we vote against the goods or services we do not choose to buy. The great merit of market place choosing is that no one is bound by any other person’s selection. I may choose Brand X. But this cannot prevent you from choosing Brand Y.

When we place voting into the framework of politics, however, a major change occurs. When we express a preference politically, we do so precisely because we intend to bind others to our will. Political voting is the legal method we have adopted and extolled for obtaining monopolies of power. Political voting is nothing more than the assumption that might makes right. There is a presumption that any decision wanted by the majority of those expressing a preference must be desirable, and the inference even goes so far as to presume that anyone who differs from a majority view is wrong or possibly immoral.

But history shows repeatedly the madness of crowds and the irrationality of majorities. The only conceivable merit relating to majority rule lies in the fact that if we obtain monopoly decisions by this process, we will coerce fewer persons than if we permit the minority to coerce the majority. But implicit in all political voting is the necessity to coerce some so that all are controlled. The direction taken by the control is academic. Control as a monopoly in the hands of the state is basic.

In times such as these, it is incumbent upon free men to reexamine their most cherished, long-established beliefs. There is only one truly moral position for an honest person to take. He must refrain from coercing his fellows. This means that he should refuse to participate in the process by means of which some men obtain power over others. If you value your right to life, liberty, and property, then clearly there is every reason to refrain from participating in a process that is calculated to remove the life, liberty, or property from any other person. Voting is the method for obtaining legal power to coerce others.

Dante on January 10, 2013 at 12:25 PM

You’d think we’d at least have someone who valued the military as the Sec of Def. Silly me – we already have someone who doesn’t respect America as POTUS so Hagel fits right into Obama’s shadow.

katiejane on January 10, 2013 at 1:15 PM

Dante on January 10, 2013 at 12:25 PM

That’s a very powerful essay.

antifederalist on January 10, 2013 at 1:39 PM

You’d think we’d at least have someone who valued the military as the Sec of Def. Silly me – we already have someone who doesn’t respect America as POTUS so Hagel fits right into Obama’s shadow.

katiejane on January 10, 2013 at 1:15 PM

Maybe, 0dumba the anti-American wants an anti-American as Sec. of Defense in order to give his anti-American nominee for Sec. of State a playmate.

Anti-Control on January 10, 2013 at 4:35 PM

That’s a very powerful essay.

antifederalist on January 10, 2013 at 1:39 PM

LOL! :)

Anti-Control on January 10, 2013 at 4:37 PM

yawn…another thread hijacked by our favorite purest Dante. Ron Paul still didn’t win Dante. Next.

DanMan on January 10, 2013 at 10:37 AM

Dilettante simplistically views the world around him as though he is playing The Sims – like the dangerously clueless Ron Paul, he has no real insight into the nature of malevolent tyrants.

Anti-Control on January 10, 2013 at 4:48 PM

Pansy Graham will vote for him.

Jaibones on January 10, 2013 at 5:46 PM

A cabinet nomination blocked because Hagel personally irritated Senators or supported their opponents in political contests? Now how could anyone get the idea that Republicans are hack obstructionists. Crazy talk.

plewis on January 11, 2013 at 1:24 PM

It’s nice to see the Lindbergh Republicans so ably represented here by Dante and antifederalist. It’d be a shame if isolationism nearly letting the Nazis (or, later, the Soviets) take over the world because we couldn’t be bothered to deal with them until after Pearl Harbor wiped out that particular viewpoint.

M. Scott Eiland on January 12, 2013 at 2:48 PM

It’s nice to see the Lindbergh Republicans so ably represented here by Dante and antifederalist. It’d be a shame if isolationism nearly letting the Nazis (or, later, the Soviets) take over the world because we couldn’t be bothered to deal with them until after Pearl Harbor wiped out that particular viewpoint.

M. Scott Eiland on January 12, 2013 at 2:48 PM

Sadly, it’s not nice to see ignorance as deep as yours.

Dante on January 14, 2013 at 12:48 AM

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