After suffering the indignity of a GOP hazing in the Senate Armed Services Committee, President Barack Obama’s pick for Defense Secretary 66-year-old former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), got a good taste of what Barack’s faced since taking offce Jan. 20, 2008. Not since Robert Bork met his demise at the hands of Democrats in full Senate Oct. 23, 1983 has a nominee been so hazed, disrespected and vilified in the public square. While the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) led the charge against Bork, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) piled it on Hagel in what looks like a colossal waste of time. “No I don’t believe he’s qualified,” said McCain, referring to Hagel. “But I don’t believe that we should hold up his nomination any further, because I think it’s [been] a reasonable amount of time to have questions and answers,” said McCain.
Hagel’s GOP hazing stemmed from his vociferous opposition to the Iraq War, the costly boondoggle that lost former President George W. Bush credibility and cost the U.S. Treasury over $1 trillion and military 4,886 lives. Now that McCain and Graham have finished lashing out, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) can call for a full Senate vote. With Democrats and independents holding at least 55 votes, Hagel’s confirmation is now a shoe-in. When McCain ran against Obama in 2008, Hagel remained neutral, unofficially leaning toward Obama. Barack wanted to name Chuck Defense Secretary in 2009 but let nonpartisan Bush Defense Secretary Robert Gates stay put. While it appears that concerns about Hagel stem from his positions on Iran and Israel, the real resistance comes from his lack of support for McCain’s GOP presidential candidacy in 2008.
Letting go of the filibuster, the GOP acknowledges that Obama has a right to his pick for Defense Secretary. Forced to clarify and declare his positions on Israel and Iran, Hagel looks poised to pass a full Senate vote next Tuesday. Lingering issues with Hagel stem from his maverick stand opposing the Iraq War. Before opposing Iraq, Hagel was considered a rising star in the GOP. A decorated Vietnam War veteran, Hagel was respected by all—especially the GOP—for his military savvy before opposing the Iraq War. McCain and Graham filibustered Hagel’s nomination to get more facts from the White House on the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack on the Benghazi, Libya U.S. Consulate that killed 52-year U.S. Amb. Chris Steven and three other Americans. McCain and Graham tried their utmost to create a Watergate-like cover-up, implicating Obama in lying to Congress.
When it became clear that the White House wouldn’t produce any more docs on Benghazi, McCain and Graham acquiesced. Insisting they were only “doing out job to scrutinize . . on of the most unqualified, radical choices for secretary of defense in a very long time,” said Graham. Graham didn’t object to Hagel when he came aboard the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2007. Only after he fell from grace with Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney did Graham sour on Hagel. McCain didn’t turn on Chuck until he sat on the fence when he ran for president in 2008. “But at the end of the day,” said Graham. “This is the president’s decision. I give him great discretion. I can’t believe one Democratic colleague is not upset by this choice enough to speak out,” getting a better picture. Graham can’t believe that no one else in the Senate other than McCain shares his bias.
Everyone on the Senate Armed Services Committee knows that Hagel would be the first enlisted soldier to serve as Defense Secretary in U.S. history. Behind the scenes, some ask whether or not Hagel would be less likely or more likely to get the U.S. embroiled in Iran. Hawks like McCain have called for regime change in Iran and for the U.S. to set up a no fly zone or start bombing Syria. From all accounts, Hagel mirrors Obama’s reluctance to continue Bush’s gunboat diplomacy, where the White House challenged its adversaries. Since Iranian militants—including Iran’s fiery President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad—stormed the U.S. embassy in 1979, holding 52 U.S. citizens hostage 444 days until the late President Ronald Reagan was sworn in Jan. 20, 1979, the U.S. broke off relations. Judging by Hagel’s record, it’s unlikely he’d support military action against Iran or Syria.
Now that Hagel’s confirmation is all but assured, McCain and Graham are singing a different tune. Instead of trying to smear Obama on Benghazi, the GOP has bigger fish to fry preparing for the 2014 Midterm elections. Hazing Obama’s Cabinet picks postpones the inevitable of rebuilding a Party in shambles after the last presidential election. With former GOP presidential Mitt Romney nominee all but vanished, it’s going to take concerted effort to rebuild the party before 2014. With McCain and Graham’s mixed priorities of bashing Obama, time is running out to convince voters that GOP has its act together. Ending the filibuster against Hagel indicates that the GOP has finally moved on. Contrary to all of Hagel’s bad publicity, he should serve Obama well as Defense Secretary. Few public officials seem more on the same page than Barack and his new Defense Secretary.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.