Is it time to filibuster Hagel?

posted at 11:21 am on February 5, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Before you answer that question, take a look at this video from the Emergency Committee for Israel, which put together one of the most embarrassing episodes ever by a Cabinet nominee during a confirmation hearing:

“Is it too much to ask,” ECI wonders, “that Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel knows the Obama administration’s policy on Iran?”  Is it also too much to ask that a Cabinet nominee for a post this critical spend any time preparing on what was obviously going to be a central issue for the Armed Services Committee?  Even Carl Levin, who supports Hagel’s nomination, looks to his fellow committee members with a look that says I can’t believe this is happening.

It still is, though, and Republicans have to ask themselves whether they should force Barack Obama’s hand with a filibuster.  While I normally believe filibusters on presidential nominations are difficult to justify, Hagel’s nomination clears that bar, as I argue in my column in The Week:

Despite having gone through a mock hearing with White House advisers, Hagel seemed lost and confused for much of the actual questioning on Capitol Hill. Hagel tangled first with John McCain over a sore subject — the surge in Iraq, which Hagel vocally opposed in 2006 and 2007, and which eventually succeeded in stabilizing central Iraq. The outcome of that argument largely rests on which position one takes today on the surge, but that’s not true of other Hagel stumbles.

For instance, the panel pressed Hagel for his position on Iran. In the past, Hagel has opposed both sanctions and the discussion of a military option to keep Iran from building a nuclear weapon. But before the Senate panel, Hagel announced that he believed in the policy of “containment,” and that the government of Iran is “elected” and “legitimate.” That came as news to everyone, since that’s neither the policy of the Republicans nor the Democrats. After an aide passed him a note, Hagel then retracted that statement and added that he had no position on containment. An exasperated Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chair of the Armed Services Committee, informed him that the U.S. in fact does have a policy on containment — we oppose it.

Finally, when challenged on his lack of experience at the Pentagon and unfamiliarity with issues of weapons systems, technology, and other areas, Hagel told the panel that he would learn as he goes. “There are a lot of things I don’t know about,” Hagel stated. “If confirmed, I intend to know a lot more than I do.” One might ask why Obama didn’t appoint someone to run Defense who already knows a lot more than Hagel does, or why Hagel hasn’t bothered to learn it before appearing at his own confirmation hearing.

Republicans would arguably do Obama a favor with a filibuster, in fact:

If Republicans unite in opposition to a confirmation vote, the White House will waste no time in blaming Republicans and casting them as villains attacking a combat veteran. However, it will also give Obama a reason to back away from Hagel’s now-demonstrable incompetence and make a new selection for secretary of defense. The most likely candidate, Michelle Flournoy, has plenty of experience at the Pentagon, serving as undersecretary of defense for the first three years of Obama’s first term. She spent several years at the Pentagon in Bill Clinton’s administration, with repeated citations of excellence for her work. Flournoy would become the first female defense secretary in American history, and might alleviate some criticisms over the lack of diversity in Obama’s second-term Cabinet. Plus, Flournoy would almost certainly understand the difference between “containment” and “prevention,” and would probably prepare more thoroughly for a confirmation hearing, too.

In fact, Flournoy has a column in today’s Wall Street Journal about the dangers of poorly-considered drawdowns in the American military:

Unfortunately, the United States has an abysmal record of managing postwar drawdowns of defense spending. Almost all have resulted in a “hollow force”—too much force structure with too little investment in people, readiness and modernization.

Why? Because the easiest way to reduce Defense Department spending quickly is to enact across-the-board cuts in military end-strength, operations and maintenance, and procurement—solving the budget problem on the back of the force rather than on the department writ large.

In past drawdowns after World War II, Vietnam and the Cold War, American planners assumed a period of peace. But as the U.S. transitions in Afghanistan, no such calm appears on the horizon. From instability in the Middle East to al Qaeda’s resurgence in northern Africa, North Korea’s continued provocations and Iran’s dogged pursuit of nuclear weapons, the global security environment remains dangerous and volatile.

In this context, the U.S. must take care to preserve the military capabilities it needs to protect America’s interests now and in the future. The armed forces must retain the ability and agility to respond rapidly and effectively to a broad range of contingencies. Deep cuts to force structure, readiness and modernization should be the last resort, not the default course of action.

I find the timing of this essay rather interesting. It provides a stark contrast to Hagel’s bumbling, confused, and ill-informed performance last week.  Whether or not one agrees with Flournoy, she has more on the ball in one column than Hagel managed to express in a day-long hearing, or in the weeks since the White House first floated his name as Leon Panetta’s successor.

If Hagel was being nominated to an inconsequential post within the administration, it wouldn’t be worth opposing, regardless of his lack of qualification and seemingly total disinterest in learning about the job before his hearing.  But Defense is among the most consequential posts of any administration, and it needs someone who can at least clear the competence bar in a hearing.  Senate Republicans should filibuster Hagel’s confirmation vote, and force Obama to select someone who can handle the job.


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In a sane world yes. In this world no.

tomas on February 5, 2013 at 11:25 AM

Filibuster Everything…

workingclass artist on February 5, 2013 at 11:26 AM

Who is next on the list after him?

tomas on February 5, 2013 at 11:27 AM

I say, reluctantly, no. He is obama’s the leftards mess. Let them deal with his incompetence.

Blake on February 5, 2013 at 11:28 AM

Who is next on the list after him?

tomas on February 5, 2013 at 11:27 AM

Maxine Waters

Schadenfreude on February 5, 2013 at 11:28 AM

If you canclearly point to a difference between Republicans and Democrats and partisanship versus the national good it is the manner in which Republican senators reacted to the nomination of Harriet Miers and the Dems reactions and intentions to Hagel. Clearly one party puts country before partisan goals.

xkaydet65 on February 5, 2013 at 11:29 AM

Obama needs incompetents around him. It makes him appear ‘smart’.

Schadenfreude on February 5, 2013 at 11:29 AM

Honestly – there might be some value on having a total idiot heading up the DOD. He does represent Obama!

Careful – I only mean this in a political way.

Maybe not – I don’t know?

jake-the-goose on February 5, 2013 at 11:29 AM

Not really.

It would have made much more sense to fillibuster Lurch, who is a palpably ludicrous choice for SoS, but they do not eat their own.

Anyway, if they fillibustered Hagel, Barky would role out his preferred choice: Bill Ayers.

CorporatePiggy on February 5, 2013 at 11:29 AM

This isn’t about Republicans or Democrats. It’s about having a moron in charge of the Pentagon. Our nation deserves better.

If ever there was a perfect case for use of the filibuster on a Cabinet nomination, this is it.

ButterflyDragon on February 5, 2013 at 11:29 AM

Why can’t we ever get a “gang of 8″ to act in the national defense? Republicans cannot afford to be Obama’s whipping boy for the next two years.

Tell Democrats that unless they also oppose Hagel, they will get him. They united on Obama’s disastrous two attempts to submit a budget.

Mord on February 5, 2013 at 11:31 AM

I wish, but no. We have to pick the battle and this one isn’t it. What we will get is someone else not qualified and more ammo for the Donks to nuke the process. Let Barry have his Harold Brown because the alternative is Harold Brown.

Limerick on February 5, 2013 at 11:32 AM

Meh. Doesn’t matter who the SecDef is, they are just going to be a fig leaf for the Marxists’ deliberate dismantlement of our military, anyway. So let Hagel show what a spineless sack of shit he is.

rayra on February 5, 2013 at 11:32 AM

This guy is so stupid he’s dangerous .
So filibuster away .

Lucano on February 5, 2013 at 11:32 AM

The real question is not whether to filibuster, but who comes next? It’s clear many on the Left would welcome a GOP filibuster, however we may be better off with this useful idiot, than the next nominee.

Tater Salad on February 5, 2013 at 11:32 AM

Obama reached into a his box of “dim bulbs”, pulled out the very dimmest and installed them as secretary of state, secretary of defense, and director of the CIA. We are in deep, deep trouble folks.

rplat on February 5, 2013 at 11:33 AM

Demorats: “What’s your position on cutting the defense budget, Mr. Hagel?”

Hagel: “Oh I plan to pretty much gut everything, and Israel can go to hell.”

Demorats: “Good enough for us, let’s vote to confirm!”

Bishop on February 5, 2013 at 11:33 AM

Senate Republicans should filibuster Hagel’s confirmation vote, and force Obama to select someone who can handle the job.

I’m starting to get a feeling that this was BHO’s plan all along, but he just needed a way to blame R’s for it first.

Difficultas_Est_Imperium on February 5, 2013 at 11:33 AM

If Hagel is blocked do you think Barry will just call Lynn Cheney and offer her the Grass Crown?

Limerick on February 5, 2013 at 11:34 AM

You can tell he is a heavy drinker. I can smell the booze coming out of his pores from my computer.

tomas on February 5, 2013 at 11:34 AM

Who is next on the list after him?

tomas on February 5, 2013 at 11:27 AM

If Obama is looking for any competence in the position, it should be Flournoy. She, at least has an understanding of the military. Might not like all her views, but she understands it.
But from her little essay there, it would appear that she wants a stronger military than he does.
Trying to pass Hagel as a Republican didn’t work out too well.

Jabberwock on February 5, 2013 at 11:36 AM

If the D’s want him, let them have him.

Spade on February 5, 2013 at 11:36 AM

Limerick on February 5, 2013 at 11:34 AM

That is my concern as well. If Hagel’s nomination is “partisan” then Obama will just throw another dart at the list until he gets his way. Partisanship is his MO.

Mord on February 5, 2013 at 11:37 AM

I changed my mind. Filibuster his a$$!

Blake on February 5, 2013 at 11:39 AM

How did the fine people of Nebraska ever elect this fool?

Tater Salad on February 5, 2013 at 11:39 AM

lmao at republicans….hate Obama so much they’d reject a REPUBLICAN for a nomination

sigh

nonpartisan on February 5, 2013 at 11:40 AM

Why no, we should accept any idiot that the Progs nominate and hope for the best..?!

d1carter on February 5, 2013 at 11:41 AM

nonpartisan on February 5, 2013 at 11:40 AM

Nail on head. We Reps know when to fire someone. The problem is we haven’t fired enough of them.

Limerick on February 5, 2013 at 11:42 AM

Hagel is just an extension of Obama.

If Hagel is so corrupt, incompetent and racist, then what does that say about the man who nominated him? Why isn’t that the issue?

JellyToast on February 5, 2013 at 11:42 AM

Who is next on the list after him?

tomas on February 5, 2013 at 11:27 AM

Bill Ayers

The Rogue Tomato on February 5, 2013 at 11:44 AM

lmao at republicans….hate Obama so much they’d reject a REPUBLICAN for a nomination

sigh

nonpartisan on February 5, 2013 at 11:40 AM

I hear ya, why can’t they be smart like demorats and simply agree with whomever holds the Party badge regardless of competence.

#GuamTippingOver

Bishop on February 5, 2013 at 11:44 AM

lmao at republicans….hate Obama so much they’d reject a REPUBLICAN for a nomination

sigh

nonpartisan on February 5, 2013 at 11:40 AM

The guy admitted that he has virtually NO understanding of the military.
That should be enough to dislike him for SecDef.
Obama would like for your argument to take hold, but Hagel blew it up at his hearing.
The guy is a dud.

Jabberwock on February 5, 2013 at 11:46 AM

I’m of the let it burn crowd. The majority of those voting in this last election made their moronic choice. It’s obvious the shameless Obama wasn’t embarrassed by Hagel’s ineptitude, otherwise he would’ve pulled the nomination. So I say let the nomination get past cloture and have a full Senate vote on Hagel. Because if Republicans filibuster, the Democrat media will ignore Hagel being an idiot and focus only on “Republican obstructionism”. After it comes to the floor, Republicans should all vote “nay”, then let the Democrats vote in the moron.

I hate to be so cynical, but there really ain’t anything that can be done other than keep telling the people how stupid Hagel is. If it’s done after he’s SecDef, so be it.

Steve Tsouloufis on February 5, 2013 at 11:47 AM

We don’t hate Jews like nonpartisan.

tomas on February 5, 2013 at 11:48 AM

Hagel is to dangerous to allow to come to a vote. Filibuster him. Make Obama look like the fool he is for nominating a guy like Hagel.

portlandon on February 5, 2013 at 11:52 AM

Who is next on the list after him?

tomas on February 5, 2013 at 11:27 AM

Maxine Waters

Schadenfreude on February 5, 2013 at 11:28 AM

Maxine is in Congress FOR LIFE… SecDef has an expiration date..

It really doesn’t matter WHO is running Defense, since the money is getting cut with a meat cleaver…

The democrat of “Butter votes, guns (military) don’t” has come home to roost…

After Carter, Clinton and now Obama, anyone in the military voting DEMOCRAT needs to check into sick bay and schedule their “cranial rectal extraction” procedure…

Khun Joe on February 5, 2013 at 11:53 AM

Save it for SCOTUS. If not the 2017 SCOTUS will be dropping the hammer on every Red head. You know it is coming. The Supremes will be Barry’s revenge on America.

Limerick on February 5, 2013 at 11:56 AM

Is Hagel merely a stalking horse? Dear Liar nominates someone from the opposition, opposition objects and looks unreasonable, then compromises on who he wanted in the first place.

rbj on February 5, 2013 at 12:00 PM

I would enjoy a Ted Cruz, Rand Paul Filibuster & pipe it into every school classroom from K-College in America.

workingclass artist on February 5, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Obama needs incompetents around him. It makes him appear ‘smart’.

Schadenfreude on February 5, 2013 at 11:29 AM

That’s how insufferable narcissists work. It’s all about them.
~(Ä)~

Karl Magnus on February 5, 2013 at 12:01 PM


I hate to be so cynical, but there really ain’t anything that can be done other than keep telling the people how stupid Hagel is. If it’s done after he’s SecDef, so be it.

Steve Tsouloufis on February 5, 2013 at 11:47 AM

My emotional response is to agree with everything you said in your post.

My logical response is to oppose everything Barky wants.

freedomfirst on February 5, 2013 at 12:02 PM

Hagel will be confirmed. And there’s no way the GOP filibuters him. They don’t have the stones for it.

Our senior Nebraska senator, Mike Johanns, revealed over the weekend that he intends to support Hagel. That’ll provide cover for several more Republican senators to join him. Johanns insisted that he wasn’t just voting for Hagel because they’re long-time buddies, but because Chuck assured him privately that he was committed to Israel and to America and her allies. Anybody else buying that load? Yeah, me either. Johanns also voted to continue arming Egypt and voted to confirm John Kerry. Seems like the DC ‘go along to get along’ crowd has a new member. Extremely disappointing, especially after ridding ourselves of Benedict Nelson.

jonrademacher on February 5, 2013 at 12:03 PM

Hagel has exposed establishment repubs as idiots. This guy didn’t get this stupid overnight.

DanMan on February 5, 2013 at 12:04 PM

… This guy didn’t get this stupid overnight.

DanMan on February 5, 2013 at 12:04 PM

…No. It appears he worked on it over many years.

freedomfirst on February 5, 2013 at 12:06 PM

I think Hagel will do a nice job embarassing the Obama administration (hasn’t he already?). Why would I want to stop that?

rhombus on February 5, 2013 at 12:20 PM

I think Hagel will do a nice job embarassing the Obama administration (hasn’t he already?). Why would I want to stop that? – rhombus on February 5, 2013 at 12:20 PM

Because if he is confirmed he would be a damn outright danger to this country. Not that Obama is not already a danger to this country, but we are stuck with him for the next four years.

SC.Charlie on February 5, 2013 at 12:33 PM

No. Let the Democrats stick this turd firmly to Obama’s shoe, or force Bronco Bama to retract his nomination. Republicans should do all they can to point out what a sub-par nominee Hagel is, and what a stupid choice Obama made, but stop short of filibuster. Obama is HOPING the Republicans will bail him out. Don’t do it. Hagel won’t be any worse than Hillary was in her position, given who his boss is.

starboardhelm on February 5, 2013 at 12:41 PM

Ed,
Wake up. You are playing checkers while the O-ministration is playing chess. Everything is a political play.

This is like watching a player on the other team try to make a basket in his own goal and you run up and foul him.

The reality is that the Defense Dept. doesn’t do anything major without the express written consent of the Commander in Chief.

Republicans need to stick to budget issues right now and chalk the Defense Secretary nomination up to a “We don’t want to stand in the way of the President picking who he thinks the best man for the job is.” And then criticize the heck out of Hagel once he is in office.

You do realize Rumsfeld and Cheney are dirty words in 50% of American households and have significantly contributed to the current belief by low information voters that Republicans are evil warmongers, right? Well I want to take the “Everyone in this administration is an idiot!” card back from the Left. And then play it everywhere I can.

oconp88 on February 5, 2013 at 12:45 PM

lmao at republicans….hate Obama so much they’d reject a REPUBLICAN for a nomination

sigh

nonpartisan on February 5, 2013 at 11:40 AM

Gibbs must hate Obama too. If you were actually nonpartisan, you’d have a problem with how terrible the hearing went. But you’re just another Obama panty-thrower that signs off on anything he does.

Chuck Schick on February 5, 2013 at 12:57 PM

I would enjoy a Ted Cruz, Rand Paul Filibuster & pipe it into every school classroom from K-College in America.

workingclass artist on February 5, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Getting the permission of the teachers’ union to do so would be quite a feat.

J.S.K. on February 5, 2013 at 1:01 PM

lmao at republicans….hate Obama so much they’d reject a REPUBLICAN for a nomination

sigh

nonpartisan

So, basically what you’re saying is you’d vote for Fidel Castro if he was the dem candidate. But we knew that already, lol.

xblade on February 5, 2013 at 1:16 PM

Ain’t gonna happen. The R’s never stand up for what they should, and lately, stand up too often for what they shouldn’t.
~ Halli Casser-Jayne
The Halli Casser-Jayne Show, Talk Radio for Fine Minds

The CJ Political Report on February 5, 2013 at 1:21 PM

The Republicans should filibuster Hagel. Secretary of Defense, in charge of all the nation’s military forces, is too important a position to confide to an incompetent, regardless of the political “gain” that may be obtained by letting him pass.

With the nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea, and the unrest in Egypt, Syria, and Libya, and some of the dangerous trends in Russia, we need someone who will not dismantle the military.

After the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, it is obvious that the military intervention in Libya was botched, since nobody bothered to coordinate with the anti-Gadhafi “rebels” to know whether they could govern the country once Gadhafi was ousted.

We can’t afford a SecDef who would botch a future intervention with Iran, Syria, North Korea, or elsewhere…

Steve Z on February 5, 2013 at 2:30 PM

The real problem with Hegel is that he consistently said what Obama believes. Obama deserves to have this idiot as his Sec Def, it will make it harder for Obama to get away with things when he has this obvious idiot pushing them.

Obama deserves Hegel, and there’s no reason why Republicans should rescue Obama by filibustering the nomination. All vote against it? Hell yes. But don’t filibuster.

America voted for Obama. They deserve to get Hegel, too.

Greg Q on February 5, 2013 at 5:23 PM