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Posts Tagged ‘Chuck Hagel’
December 2nd, 2014 at 6:33 pm
Obama’s New Defense Secretary Looks Like a Yes-Man

There’s no requirement that the Defense Secretary have actual military experience, but the selection of Ashton “Ash” Carter as the nominee to replace Chuck Hagel says a lot about what President Barack Obama wants from his next Pentagon chief.

“In addition to a broad understanding of the Pentagon bureaucracy, Carter is seen as a master of managing large budgets, a premium in the present era of continued belt tightening on Capitol Hill, as well as an expert on weapons acquisitions,” reports CNN.

“He also has a firm grasp on understanding the trends and technology of warfare in the future.”

Previously, Carter served as Deputy Defense Secretary – the Pentagon’s number two position – under Hagel and Leon Panetta. He’s bounced between academia and government with great success. Carter is apparently respected by the top military brass and is expected not to generate much controversy from Republicans when formally announced.

Yet for all the operational strengths Carter brings to the table – which appear to be considerable and surely appreciated on a day-to-day basis – missing from CNN’s bio piece is any mention of whether Carter as SecDef will have strong principles to guide his recommendations to President Obama regarding military strategy or foreign policy.

And maybe that’s the point.

From the looks of it, Ash Carter is a hardworking, intelligent man who knows how to get things done within a hugely important bureaucracy. Missing from his portfolio, though, is any indicator that he will be much more than yes-man.

Then again, maybe that’s the point.

February 26th, 2013 at 4:52 pm
The Shameful Behavior of the Senate, re: Hagel

As I write this, the Senate is voting on the nomination of Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense. It is doing so without a single word of debate (other than a quick summation of his resume by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin of Michigan). So, after voting two weeks ago to reject cloture on the nomination — a move by definition meaning that the opponents want more time for public debate — those same opponents now are not taking the opportunity to, you know, actually debate. No summary arguments will now be recorded for history about why so many found the nomination so troubling. No attempt will be made to lay before the public a full, well-organized, incisive explanation of what the stakes are. All that remains is the impression that senators two weeks ago threw a mere hissy fit, utterly pointless except to show that they could stomp their feet and whine if they darn well wanted to.

Opposing senators two weeks ago asked for more time to examine Hagel’s record. Plenty of new material has emerged since then, much of it serving to reinforce the earlier objections to the nomination. And plenty of other new material, even material intended for eventual release to the public, remains publicly unavailable for now specifically because Mr. Hagel refuses access to it. This, of course, raises questions about what else Mr. Hagel is hiding.

So, having demanded time for new material to emerge, and having seen new material emerge, why are the opponents now declining the opportunity to discuss those materials, and to review the old ones, for the public record, and to try to convince some of their colleagues to withdraw their support? By Senate rules, 30 hours of debate is allowed post-cloture. Cloture was invoked yesterday. Instead of 30 hours, though, the Senate used all of about three minutes, featuring only the aforementioned summary by Sen. Levin.

This is a disgrace. It would be a disgrace if the shoe were on the other foot and it was a Republican nominee who might have to wait a whole extra day or two before taking office. It is a disgrace because it is an abdication of the Senate’s responsibility to hold open debate for the sake of the public, whenever weighty issues are to be voted on.

Citizens should be sickened that we have been put through two more weeks of bother, all in the name of further debate, and then denied any serious debate at all.

No wonder the public so often remains in the dark about the real workings of, and reasoning behind the workings of, their elected Congress. No wonder the public holds Congress in such contempt. That’s what contemptuous behavior elicits — and today’s lack of debate was contemptuous indeed.

February 14th, 2013 at 3:17 pm
Republicans to Filibuster Hagel?

It looks like Quin’s prediction that Senate Republicans would filibuster Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be the next Defense Secretary was right on.

Politico and Fox News are reporting that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid doesn’t have 60 votes necessary to shut down a threatened Republican filibuster, so it looks like Hagel will be in confirmation limbo until at least February 25th.

The reasons given revolve mainly around trying to pressure the White House to turn over documents detailing the Obama Administration’s response during and after the terrorist attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.  So far, there have been only cursory remarks by Republican Senators that a vote on Hagel is being delayed because of problems raised by his past policy statements and inconsistent testimony two weeks ago.

Right now, it looks like the GOP, as the minority party in the Senate, is trying to assert itself any way it can.  But there is a risk the move could backfire, if over the next week or two President Obama successfully frames the filibuster as over a dispute about an issue unrelated to Hagel’s fitness to run the Pentagon.  To avoid that, Republicans should be prepared to make a compelling case against Hagel on the merits, in every forum possible.

January 31st, 2013 at 6:28 pm
Hagel Flunks Confirmation Hearing; Still Might Pass Senate

Looks like Quin might get his wish on Chuck Hagel’s nomination.  President Barack Obama’s Defense Secretary nominee misstated the Administration’s policy on containment of Iran twice; once when Hagel said he supported Obama’s policy of containment, then when he said there was no policy.  It took Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin (D-MI) to remind Hagel that, actually, “We (i.e. America) do have a position on containment, and that is we do not favor containment.”

Hagel also said during his confirmation hearing today that he doesn’t know enough about military programs and technology, but promised that as Defense Secretary he would do the necessary cramming to get up to speed.

Overall, Hagel did himself no favors with the senators who oppose his nomination, and may have given fence-sitters enough wiggle room to justify abandoning him.  My guess, however, is that President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will work the phones and twist the arms necessary to save the Administration from a humiliating No vote on confirmation.

January 17th, 2013 at 8:02 pm
Questions for Hagel

George Will has some excellent questions that should be put to Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel in the latter’s upcoming confirmation hearings.  Here are my three favorites:

●Do you agree with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s judgment that cuts under sequestration would “hollow out the force”? Can you give examples of procurements or deployments that justify your description of the Defense Department as “bloated”?

●Congress’s power to declare war has atrophied since it was last exercised (against Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary on June 5, 1942). Should Congress authorize America’s wars?

●Speaking of the imperial presidency, do you believe that the use of drones to target specific individuals means presidents have an unreviewable power to kill whomever they define as enemies? Do you favor “signature strikes,” wherein drones attack not identifiable individuals but groups of young males whose characteristics match the “signature” of terrorists?

Read the whole list here.

January 9th, 2013 at 12:21 pm
On Procedure

Ashton, just to be clear (in response to your post), I do understand the procedures. Here’s the thing: There is plenty of time to gauge, from press statements and elsewhere, a rather good sense of how many senators support a nomination, and therefore whether or not it will be killed in an up or down vote. My contention is that a senator seeing the tea leaves going in favor of Hagel could consider a hold before the nomination technically reaches the floor. I do not necessarily advocate this, but I think it’s worth looking into.

Sure, a majority leader can disregard a hold, technically. But if he does so, members of one’s own party, looking to protect their own prerogatives, are then MORE likely to join the “holder” in a subsequent filibuster.

But the main thing I advocate is not a hold, but the willingness to filibuster this thing to death. Of course I know that Reid is threatening to kill the filibuster, but there is blowback on his side, too. The rules will be determined in just a few weeks; from what I have read, the most likely outcome is that he will kill the ability to filibuster the motion to proceed to debate in the first place, but will probably not change the rules to disallow a filibuster on the motion to “call the question” — in other words, to end debate and hold a straight up-or-down vote.

Because this motion comes already after at least some debate has been held, it is perfectly consistent with my agreement with Ashton’s advocacy of using open debate to try to kill the nomination. Indeed, I think enough Democrats are skittish about Hagel that the nomination can indeed by killed in a straight up or down vote — and that there will be enough clear statements of Democratic opposition that it will be safe to allow it to go to such a vote.

BUT… BUT… BUT! — if it looks like Obama has strong-armed enough Dems that Hagel will get through, or has a good chance of doing so, THEN I think a filibuster is in order to keep debate going (technically speaking) and, in short, to forever block the nomination. By that time, the rules will be set already. Reid of course could then still use the nuclear option, but it would be mighty risky of him to do that after having already agreed to rules for this Congress that do allow a filibuster before proceeding to a final vote.

So I am not “wrong” about procedures. You may disagree with my advocacy of certain procedures, but that’s different from not understanding them fully.

And, for the record, I am not a huge fan of killing ANYTHING with a permanent filibuster. I am an advocate of a different kind of filibuster reform, which I have written about elsewhere. But the rules and their use should be consistent from party to party. Unless a fair-minded, apolitical reform is introduced, and absent serious constitutional (letter OR spirit) concerns that apply in the case of judicial nominees but not executive branch nominees, I think that a precedent as recent as the filibuster against John Bolton is one that should apply the first time the shoe is on the other party’s foot, so to speak, in terms of a major executive branch nomination.

This is especially true when the concerns go, as they do with Hagel, not just to mere political differences, but to major policy misjudgments, major evidence of unseemly bias, and character concerns.

Just as no anti-black racist should ever be confirmed for a high post, so to should no anti-Semite be so confirmed. This is basic stuff, getting to the very heart of moral fitness for office. I think there is solid evidence that Hagel has anti-Semitic (not just anti-Israel’s foreign policy) tendencies, and that he is also dangerously unwilling to even acknowledge obvious proof of terrorism if the terrorism in question is mostly aimed at Israel. He cannot, must not, ever, be confirmed.

January 9th, 2013 at 9:36 am
Ramirez Cartoon: The Three Stooges
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez. 

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

January 8th, 2013 at 8:10 pm
Quin is Wrong on Procedure, Right on Substance

In light of the volleys exchanged, let’s review how a senatorial hold works.

From the U.S. Senate’s reference page on chamber rules:

hold - An informal practice by which a senator informs his or her floor leader that he or she does not wish a particular bill or other measure to reach the floor for consideration. The majority leader need not follow the senator’s wishes, but is on notice that the opposing senator may filibuster any motion to proceed to consider the measure.

Note the part stating, “The majority leader need not follow the senator’s wishes, but is on notice that the opposing senator may filibuster any motion to proceed to consider the measure.”

What’s a filibuster?

filibuster - Informal term for any attempt to block or delay Senate action on a bill or other matter by debating it at length, by offering numerous procedural motions, or by any other delaying or obstructive actions.

Bear in mind that the majority leader, i.e. Harry Reid (D-NV), “need not follow the senator’s wishes…”  Recall also Reid’s musings that he’d like to enact the so-called ‘nuclear option’ to remove the usual supermajority requirement for overcoming a filibuster, and replace it with a simple majority.  So, if the Senate Democratic caucus wants to, they can 1) refuse to honor any hold requests on Hagel, and 2) change Senate rules on filibusters to shut down the opposition.  With several news outlets reporting that President Barack Obama is ready to pick a fight over Hagel, I think Reid does both if Republicans try to kill Obama’s nominee for Defense Secretary with obstructionist procedural tactics.

Maybe if Hagel was nominated for some second tier Cabinet office Republicans could get away with relying on informal procedures to block his next career move.  But with Obama riding high after the fiscal cliff negotiations – Quin’s optimism notwithstanding – I think Republicans will lose, and lose big, with the public if they try to kill Obama’s top Pentagon pick on procedure rather than substance.

It should be said that I don’t disagree with any of Quin’s criticisms of Hagel.  Instead, my point of departure is with Quin’s reliance on procedural obstruction rather than tough questioning and reasoned argument.  Conservatives have one of the most intellectually articulate groups of senators in living memory with the likes of Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and others.  Let them and military stalwarts like John McCain and Lindsey Graham make a coordinated, sustained case against Hagel and his views on foreign policy.  In the process, they might even discover a countervailing vision that convinces the American people.

January 8th, 2013 at 2:06 pm
Hagel Should Get the Opportunity to Go Through a Tough Confirmation Process

To start, I’ll take as a compliment Quin’s assertion that “Ashton seems to accept with some equanimity the idea that Chuck Hagel will be confirmed as Secretary of Defense” since equanimity is a virtue I’m trying to achieve.

That said, I don’t think there’s a Republican United States Senator willing to take Quin’s suggestion and put a permanent hold on Hagel’s nomination.

It’s one thing for Ted Cruz (R-TX) to make waves on cable television by (rightly) blasting the Obama Administration over Hagel, the fiscal cliff, and gun control, but it is quite another for Cruz to use his senatorial prerogative of “holding” up the President’s nomination for one of the top three Cabinet posts (State and Treasury being the other two); especially since Cruz is in his first full week as a Senator.

Moreover, from the tone of opposition coming from other top Republicans like John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and others, I don’t get the sense defeating the Hagel nomination through an obscure “hold” is the proverbial hill upon which any Republican Senator wants to die this session.

Instead, I think Hagel will go through the confirmation process with the kind of probing scrutiny Supreme Court justices get.  It may very well be that, as Quin writes, “The man [Hagel], appears to many to be an anti-Semite.  Opponents make quite a case that he should never set foot in the top office at the Pentagon.”

Well, let Senate Republicans, not just political pundits, make that case on the record.

In the confirmation hearings, during floor debate, and in an actual speaking filibuster if it comes to that, Senate Republicans will have many instances to make precisely the case Quin alludes to, and any other substantive policy criticisms about Hagel they think will defeat his confirmation.  But let’s have the argument in public, through the normal process of a presidential nomination.

U.S. Senators like to think they work within “the world’s greatest deliberative body.”  Let them prove it with a robust examination of Chuck Hagel’s fitness to be the next Secretary of Defense.

January 7th, 2013 at 3:17 pm
Hagel Should Not Get the Opportunity

Ashton seems to accept with some equanimity the idea the Chuck Hagel will be confirmed as Secretary of Defense. Hmmm…. At least one GOP senator ought to announce that Hagel will be confirmed only over his (the senator’s) dead body.

Even after all my years on and/or covering Capitol Hill, I don’t quite understand all the ins and outs of how a “hold” works. But surely, if Jesse Helms could put a permanent hold on William Weld’s nomination to be an ambassador, then why can’t/won’t another senator kill the Hagel nomination with such a hold?

If not, this is clearly a nomination that can be filibustered to death. As well it should be. The only man in the United States Senate to refuse to sign an open letter (signed by all 99 other senators) condemning Russian anti-Semitism has no business being confirmed to a job that might entail the provision of troops or weapons for defense of Israel.

The man appears, to many, to be an anti-Semite. Opponents make quite a case that he should never set foot in the top office at the Pentagon.

January 7th, 2013 at 12:16 pm
Sizing Up the Hagel Nomination

Former Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel is poised to be nominated as the next Defense Secretary.  Politico’s Josh Gerstein has an interesting round-up of the five constituencies most likely to oppose Hagel, but I want to see how President Barack Obama’s pick articulates his position on military spending cuts.

After the fiscal cliff mess, Republicans are aiming to reform entitlements, while Democrats would prefer to ax the Pentagon.  If Hagel can give a reasoned defense for eliminating some unnecessary programs – such as projects that serve to stimulate local economic development rather than national security – then a way could be opened for responsible spending reductions over a wider array of budget areas.  Unlike the automatic spending sequester scheduled to reappear at the end of February, a Hagelian contribution like the one I’m imagining could go a long way to getting on the table real cuts that the broader public can accept.

We’ll see if Hagel makes good on the opportunity.

August 23rd, 2010 at 7:21 pm
Republican Chuck Hagel Backs Democrat Joe Sestak’s Senate Bid

Finally, some above-the-fray bipartisanship!  Tomorrow former Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) will support Congressman Joe Sestak’s (D-PA) bid to enter the body Hagel once inhabited.  On the surface, the endorsement can be rationalized.  Both men served in the military (Hagel in the Army, Sestak in the Navy), and neither could be confused with a strong ideological commitment to forceful shows of American power.

However, there’s probably something more to Hagel’s otherwise ineffectual endorsement.  (He is virtually unknown to Pennsylvania voters, and his refusal to back Republican Pat Toomey won’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with Hagel’s moderate record.)  With Obama Defense Secretary Robert Gates (another middle-of-the-road-Republican) retiring at the end of next year, look for Hagel to get extra attention to replace him.

Here’s the take from Chris Cizilla of the Washington Post:

On the other hand, there could be genuine benefit for Hagel — albeit symbolic. Hagel is rightly understood as trying out for a Cabinet job and the more he can show a willingness to put party aside to do what he believes is the right thing, the more attractive he will be to President Obama and his inner circle.

It will be interesting to see if — and where — Hagel chooses to insert himself between now and Nov. 2 and what benefit, if any, he accrues in the eyes of the White House for those endorsements.

Funny how the “right thing” in this scenario is calculated to boost Hagel’s chances at landing one of the most important jobs in the United States government.  Hey, we can’t all be political martyrs – right, Pat Toomey?