Obama leaves a pile, GOP steps in it

The GOP is looking for ways to look stupid and petty, and Obama is all too willing to oblige with opportunities.

Obama’s nomination for Defense Secretary is Chuck Hagel, the former Senator of Nebraska. Hagel has been criticized for being not-quite-enthusiastic-enough-about-Israel and for being in favor of engaging Iran and Hamas in direct talks. Hagel is also on record calling for cutbacks in the defense budget. Exactly the sort of nominee that republicans would want to block, and exactly the sort of nominee that republicans would want to make a big public stink about. Obama picked some anti-military liberal democrat hippie and the GOP will be eager to stand up to vocally decry the nominee to protect the country.

In fact, that’s what the GOP has done. Thursday they demanded more time to debate and the Senate failed to make a cloture vote, and the vote has now been scheduled for February 26th. Lindsey Graham called for a delay on the vote, Ted Cruz asked for Hagel’s financial records, and John McCain grilled Hagel about his opinions on the troop «surge» proposed by President Bush, which Hagel opposed when he was in the Senate.

The White House is quite predictably accusing republicans of obstructionism. While republicans have valid disagreements with Hagel on matters of military policy, this time they walked right into Obama’s trap. Because Chuck Hagel is not some anti-military democrat hippie. Chuck Hagel was the Republican Senator from Nebraska, and a decorated Vietnam veteran.

Hagel’s military service should not grant him immunity from scrutiny. Nor should his affiliation with the Republican Party. But in a world of soundbites, how do Republicans think they can get around the fact that Obama reached across the aisle to nominate a republican, while the GOP for the first time ever filibustered to block the approval of a Cabinet nominee—to block the approval of a fellow Republican. It looks bad. It looks petty and deliberately contrary. The apparent pettiness is so obvious on its face that it takes diligent research and a desire to give the republicans the benefit of the doubt to remove the stink.

That Obama might not have deliberately engineered this is farfetched. He may not have known the specifics of how it would play out, but he’s smart enough to know what kind of opportunity he had with Hagel. But ultimately, Obama didn’t do anything wrong here. He set the republicans up so that they could publicly assassinate their own characters. Why bother slinging mud when your opponents will cover themselves in it for you?



I agree that the republicans should be picking their fights a little more carefully and saving whatever political capital they have for important fights such as SCOTUS appointments. Fighting everything Obama wants just makes them look like they are fighting just because it is Obama, and when the time comes for an important battle, the press will just say that once again the republicans are being obstructionists.

That said, I do not believe that the republicans will mount any serious attempt to block Hagel. When they come back after break they will announce that after doing their due diligence blah, blah, blah..... Many republicans will actually vote for him. If they actually do this, I think they can escape the stink.

But both parties are still stuck in the slime.



Seems more like they are stuck being the slime.

Looks like the GOP is indeed backpedaling on filibustering to block Hagel, which is good. It bothers me when our elected officials are amoral schemers, but it bothers me more when our elected officials act stupid.

It makes me maddest to know that the things that the GOP is complaining most about regarding Hagel are things like fiscal sanity for the DOD budget—so they are opposing him because he’s more of a republican than they are.

Plus the idea of not having talks with the nations we don’t like seems absurd. How does the policy of «don’t say anything at all and carry a big stick» make us safer in any way? Yes, I know there are diplomatic backchannels, but the whole controversy is ridiculous.

Good article, but I have to take exception to the use of the term "leaves a pile."

Senator Hagel's policies make him a very good choice for Secretary of Defense, in my opinion. This kind of cabinet appointment is why I voted for Obama. Describing the nomination as if the president had taken a dump seems disrespectful.

The nomination includes a snare, perhaps. And the Republicans got caught in it.

And I have no problem with the president being devious and crafty in such a way. If it eventually teaches his opposition party to be less obstructionist, it will be good for them and good for the country. As a former Republican supporter myself, I would love for them to release the lip-lock on reactionary love-lumber that has poisoned them since the '80's.

The nomination is, at this point, a solid win, and the effect of it giving the Republicans a rope to hang themselves is just gravy. Let it be another learning experience for them.

The original title was, «Obama leaves flaming bag of poo on GOP doorstep, rings doorbell and runs.» But that seemed too long.

I think I agree that Hagel is a good choice for policy rather than political reasons. I don’t know enough about him, but all the reasons the GOP bring up sound like reasons to confirm him rather than block him. They say he’s anti-Israel and support it by citing views he shares with Israel’s Minister of Defense and Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

That’s typical for American politics regarding Israel. Inside Israel it’s hard to find a hard-liner as extreme as an American needs to be to avoid being painted as an antisemite.

And of course the Republicans in Congress hate him because he actually advocates for the things they pretend to, like smaller government and reducing budgets.