Lloyd Austin stiffed Bob Menendez, and Bob Menendez does not take that lightly. After helping to quarterback and execute the most disgraceful military collapse in modern American history, the Secretary of Defense owes Congress a lengthy and detailed explanation — especially for leaving Americans and allies behind Taliban lines in Afghanistan. Instead, in a demonstration of the integrity and honor that undergirded the bug-out ordered by Joe Biden, Austin declined to make himself available to the Senate Foreign Relations committee.
As committee chair, Menendez did not take that lying down. He not only threatened to subpoena Austin but also a number of other Pentagon officials, and strongly implied that none of Biden’s defense nominations will get through his committee until Austin shows up — and now under oath:
Sen. Bob Menendez: "I'm very disappointed that Secretary Austin declined our request to testify today… I expect the secretary will avail himself to the committee in the near future. And if he does not, I may consider the use of committee subpoena power to compel him." pic.twitter.com/6T5DXIYRqD
— The Hill (@thehill) September 14, 2021
That’s quite a threat, especially considering Menendez’ party affiliation. One would assume that the Senate Democrat would help circle the wagons around the White House. Perhaps he would have been inclined toward a sympathetic hearing for Austin had the Defense Secretary found the intestinal fortitude to show up and account for this atrocious episode.
Menendez appears to have been surprised at getting stiffed by the White House, and wants to make sure they know he’s ready to play hardball. That’s the last thing the Biden administration wants, and should have understood that up front. A feud with Menendez will force the media to cover it for weeks, and it will also feed interest in Austin’s testimony at a time when the national media was also largely disgracing itself by cooperating with the White House distraction and diversion strategy.
Washington Post reporter Paul Kane reminds readers that Menendez already had problems with Biden’s foreign-policy team even before this utter debacle. However, as the SFRC spokesman replied, Menendez had been playing ball with the Biden team until now:
"[Blinken] is the right person to repair & restore our alliances. To rebuild & renew the State Dept. To reinvigorate the relationship between the Department and Congress -something that I think R's and Dems alike have agreed have soured dramatically."https://t.co/gQsjOicRvX
— Juan Pachón (@JuanPachon_) September 14, 2021
The implication from Austin’s refusal to willingly appear before Menendez’ committee is clear. There is no excuse for the disgraceful bug-out ordered by Biden and engineered by Austin, and no answer that will remove that stain from this leadership. Menendez will have to force Austin into accountability, and it might take a long while to even get that. Kudos to Menendez for refusing to play along with this dishonor.