Horror of horrors!
The president has picked nominees who agree with him to fill seats in his Cabinet.
What will he do next?
That seems to be the reaction of many Republicans in the Senate, many of whom intend to vote against Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense because he and President Obama see eye-to-eye on issues such as Israeli settlements, curtailing Iranian nuclear ambitions, and the proper use of military force.
Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, says of Hagel: “He’s just, in my opinion, wrong on the issues in the Middle East. But he’s right in line, I might say, with President Obama.”
Inhofe voted against John Kerry’s nomination as secretary of state because Kerry has advocated action to combat climate change and has supported a New START Treaty with Russia. Kerry shares both of those positions with the president.
Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, and only three senators voted against Kerry’s confirmation.
Hagel is different, and Inhofe is not alone in opposing the former Nebraska senator because of policies differences.
Arizona Republican John McCain, who apparently has never gotten over losing the 2008 presidential race to Barack Obama, lit into Hagel in committee hearings for having opposed the 2007 “surge” in Iraq. McCain badgered Hagel, repeatedly asking him for a yes or no answer on whether his earlier criticism of the surge was correct. Besides being rude to a former colleague, McCain knows that Iraq is not a simple “yes or no” proposition. A more nuanced answer might have been something to this effect: Senator, I think the decision to go to war in Iraq was wrong; it was a disastrous decision based on incorrect evidence and assumptions; but given the quagmire we found ourselves in four years later, the surge, in retrospect, might have made our leaving Iraq possible.
But Hagel never got the chance to give a nuanced answer.
Opposition to Hagel’s nomination is so intense that some senators may be considering filibustering his confirmation. Senator John Cornyn of Texas says, “All options are on the table.”
Filibustering a presidential nominee has not been done in the four decades since the Senate adopted the 60-vote rule for overcoming the delay tactic.
The times they are a-changin'.
Really changing. Senate Republicans no longer believe, apparently, that the upper chamber’s role is to advise the president and then consent to his nominees. Senators have rarely, if ever, questioned the president’s prerogatives in choosing his Cabinet secretaries.
Of course, the real target is not Hagel or any other presidential appointee; the real target is the president, and the goal is to hamper his ability to govern effectively. From the beginning of Obama’s first term in office, the opposition has been anything but loyal, choosing instead to war on the president’s policies and appointees whenever and wherever possible.
Inhofe admitted as much in Hagel’s confirmation hearing when he confronted the former senator over his characterization of the president as a supporter of Israel. “I know he is not up for confirmation,” Inhofe conceded. “You are.”
Obama won the presidency twice by wide margins. Republicans can’t abide that and can’t live with the results. They can’t remove Obama from the office, but they can act as if he were being grilled by Senate committees.
Senator Hagel, you were just the proxy for the real target: The president.