He’s not random, though. A truly random man wouldn’t have earned the sturdy liberal support that Hagel’s Israel-focused Jew-baiting and left-of-Obama foreign policy brought him. In the end, despite weeks of dirt being dug up, not a single Democrat voted against him at any stage of the process. (That’s not including Reid’s no vote last week, as that was purely procedural.)
Which is not to say he’s a bad guy. It may be, as Chuck Schumer believes, that he’s just … slow. Congrats, America.
The final vote: 58-41, which is a bit closer than the 71-27 margin on cloture earlier today. There are 15 Republicans who think voters are too dumb to realize that the cloture vote is the one that assured Hagel’s confirmation and that, by voting yes on that and no on the meaningless final vote, they can pretend that they “opposed” Hagel. And in fairness, they’re probably right; most voters likely are that dumb. But let’s name those 15 anyway:
The usual reason to vote yes on cloture and no on the final vote is out of deference to the president’s right, within limits, to pick the cabinet he wants. You don’t filibuster a guy just because his policy preferences tilt liberal; I wouldn’t even filibuster him for his musings on Israel, as objectionable as they are. If Obama wants a SecDef who thinks that way, that’s what America gets for reelecting him. Where the filibuster comes in is when the nominee simply isn’t qualified to do the job for which he’s been nominated. I can’t believe a single one of those 15, let alone the scores of Democrats who voted for this guy, seriously believes he’s prepared to run the Defense Department. They’re sticking the military with someone who, at best, will be an empty Republican suit while advisors who know what they’re doing, like Michele Flournoy, make the hard decisions. The next time McCain and Graham pound the table about defense cuts or O’s foreign policy, remember that they both voted to send Chuck Hagel on to the final vote. That’s how serious they are.
As for Republicans voting yes, there were four: Cochran, Johanns, Shelby, and … Rand Paul, who voted no twice on cloture. That’s the most bizarre vote array on a nominee I could imagine. You could vote yes on cloture and on confirmation if you thought Hagel was a meritorious nominee. You could vote no on both if you thought he wasn’t qualified. You could vote yes on cloture and no on confirmation if you thought Obama deserved enough deference as president to have his nominee face a final up-or-down vote. You could vote no on cloture and yes on the final vote, as Rand Paul did, if … why? Here’s Paul’s reasoning:
“I voted no because I wanted more information and I think that part of what the Senate does is try to get information about the nominees,” Paul told reporters in the basement of the Capitol after Hagel’s confirmation Tuesday. “I’ve said all along that I give the president some prerogative in choosing his political appointees.”
“There are many things I disagree with Chuck Hagel on, there are many things I disagree with John Kerry on, there are very few things I agree with the president on, but the president gets to choose political appointees,” Paul said.
Asked if he ever got the information he wanted about Hagel, Paul said that he hadn’t.
If “the president gets to choose political appointees” is sufficient reason to vote yes, then (a) we should get rid of the Senate’s advise-and-consent responsibility and (b) at the very least we should not be filibustering nominees, as Rand Paul voted to do twice. Even if he did that purely to squeeze the White House for more information, why would he vote yes on the final vote when they never gave him that information? And if the president’s entitled to his nominee of choice, why would Paul demand more info about Hagel in the first place? Just rubber-stamp him. Vote yes on every vote, no questions asked.
If you want to know the real reason Paul voted yes, read this. He overplayed his hand earlier today by voting no on cloture; he’s trying to walk a line between mainstream conservatives and his dad’s supporters and casting two votes for filibustering Hagel was, at a minimum, one too many for the latter group. So he did to the libertarians what McCain and Graham tried to do to conservatives — he voted the wrong way on the important vote, which was cloture, and then tried to appease them by voting their way on the meaningless final vote whose outcome was assured. Doubt it’ll work for him. He’ll have to make it up to them somehow.