Friday, February 15, 2013

Haggling for Hagel

In a Benghazi-leverage-fueled power-play that is both shameful and unsurprising, Senate Republicans Thursday filibustered President Obama's nomination of Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense. In a 58-40 vote, Democrats lost their bid to call a vote on Hagel, the decorated Vietnam War vet, a Republican, who used to be besties with Sen. John McCain and who Majority Leader Mitch McConnell once called one of the Senate's most respected foreign policy experts.

Some perspective is needed here: only twice in modern history has a cabinet nominee been filibustered (Reagan’s second-term Commerce Secretary C. William Verity and George W. Bush’s Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne) and never has there been one in the case of a Defense Secretary. So this week's action, or inaction, is just more of the same old partisan vitriol coming from a bunch of angry old rich men still pissed about the election (and I mean the one in 2008, not just last November's trouncing). They hate Obama, hate Democrats, and continue to "just say no" to everything the left puts forth.

Defending his party's opposition, McCain said: “There’s a lot of ill will towards Sen. Hagel, because when he was a Republican, he attacked President Bush mercilessly — at one point, said he was the worst president since Herbert Hoover — said that the [Iraqi troop] surge was the worst blunder since the Vietnam war, which is nonsense. He was very anti-his own party and people. People don’t forget that. You can disagree, but if you’re disagreeable, then people don’t forget that....Further, Chuck Hagel does not have the qualifications — in the view of many of us, particularly me — to serve. He’s has no managerial experience. His view of the world is very different. His answers on Iran were troubling. His opposition to the surge, saying it would fail. You can only judge people on what they’re going to do by what they’ve done in the past — and that record is not a good one.”

Well for one thing, if by his "record" McCain's referring to Hagel's opposition to the Iraq War, then I'd say his record is stellar, given that engagement's cost in terms of dollars and human life, let alone its uncertain outcome. And if by "troubling" McCain finds Hagel's caution against more Neocon tough talk on Iran, then I'd say "his answers" show exactly the sort of restraint and diplomacy the U.S. needs in a Defense Secretary. Lastly, McCain's blistering, personal-vendetta against Hagel is rooted in the contention that all Republicans are expected to march in lock-step with the party, acting as a rubber-stamp for anything and everything the leadership calls for. Disagreement, or dissent, is about as welcome to these myopic spoiled brats as a Barney Frank lecture on gay marriage.

Whatever happened to the House and Senate being about diverse ideas and opinions, both within a caucus and across the aisle, in protecting America's best interests? What happened to "putting country first," which was McCain's '08 campaign theme? As the undeserved witch-hunt against Hagel painfully demonstrates, it's tow-the-line or else with this current crop of Republicans. And as Obama charged Thursday, they now expect every Democratic bill in Congress to need a filibuster-proof majority in order for passage. Fuck compromise.

Hagel, who had no involvement in the administration's controversial handling of the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. embassy is Benghazi, Libya, where four Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens were killed, is being used as a pawn in the GOP's rapacious quest for "answers" on the terrorist attack.  This malicious, spiteful, defamation of Hagel's character has less to do with his overall qualifications than it does Republicans simply acting like a bunch of nasty dicks because they can.

But after all the vituperative crowing and chest-thumping is over, Hagel's nomination will likely pass, but not before more taxpayer time and money is wasted and voters' approval of Congress sinks lower than McCain's trumped-up standards. 

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