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?

4 Replies to “Obama leaves a pile, GOP steps in it”

  1. Yes and No

    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.



    1. 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. 

  2. A pile?

    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.

    1. That was the edit­ed ver­sion
      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. 

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