GOP Senators Ask Obama to Withdraw Hagel

Sen. Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas has sent a letter to President Obama asking him to withdraw Chuck Hagel’s nomination for Secretary of Defense.

Fourteen additional GOP senators signed the letter, including Cornyn’s fellow Texan, Ted Cruz, of course.  The other senators are Lindsey “Butters” Graham and Tim Scott of Texas, Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, David “Diapers” Vitter of Louisiana, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Marco Rubio of Florida, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Mike Lee of Utah, John Barrasso of Wyoming, Jim Risch of Idaho, Dan Coats of Indiana, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

John McCain didn’t sign and neither did his new sidekick, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who has replaced Joe Lieberman as the third McCain/Graham amigo.

The letter made no reference to Friends of Hamas.


Hagel Vote Postponed

The Senate Armed Services Committee was scheduled to vote on Chuck Hagel’s nomination for Secretary of Defense this week.

But nooooooooooo!

It’s being delayed because the GOP has gone off on some fishing expedition to determine if Hagel received any “foreign” payments for speeches or consulting.

Hagel provided a list of his speeches and told the Committee that he doesn’t have some of the financial information they are seeking relating to corporations and non-profits.

Never good when these votes are postponed, never good…

What Do You Get When You Cross a Hawk and a Dove? Maybe Some Sane Policy.

From “Why Chuck Hagel Is Obama’s Pentagon Pick,” Bob Woodward, WaPo:

“The two [Obama and Hagel] share similar views and philosophies as the Obama administration attempts to define the role of the United States in the transition to a post-superpower world.

“This worldview is part hawk and part dove.  It amounts, in part, to a challenge to the wars of President George W. Bush.  It holds that the Afghanistan war has been mismanaged and the Iraq was unnecessary.  War is an option, but very much a last resort.

“So, this thinking goes, the U. S. role in the world must be carefully scaled back — this is not a matter of choice but of facing reality; the military needs to be treated with deep skepticism; lots of strategic military and foreign policy thinking is out of date; and quagmires like Afghanistan should be avoided.

“The bottom line:  The United States must get out of these massive land wards — Iraq and Afghanistan — and, if possible, avoid future large-scale war.

“Although much discussion of the Hagel nomination has centered on his attitudes about Iran, Israel and the defense budget, Hagel’s broader agreement with Obama on overall philosophy is probably more consequential.”

I am hopeful that Obama/Kerry/Hagel will spend the next four years devising foreign and military policy that protects our power by getting the best bang for the buck and then uses that power wisely.  Applying our power conservatively — that would make them the neo-neo-cons.

After 9/11, we knew the world had changed, but it’s taken us over a decade to figure out how to change with it.

I would say the Iraq war wasn’t just unnecessary, but was very harmful to our interests because it took Iraq away as a counter-weight to Iran and upset the balance of power in the region.  Saddam Hussein was a bastard, but he was a useful bastard.  Bush 41 recognized this when he freed Kuwait, but didn’t march to Baghdad.

And the idea that we were going to change Afghanistan was always absurd.  No one changes Afghanistan — they just bang their heads against a wall and eventually leave.


McCain May Be Hagel’s “Friend,” But He’s Not a Supporter

Both former CIA Director  Michael Hayden and retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal expressed support today for Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense.

But despite a private meeting between the two, John McCain still isn’t convinced.  McCain says he and Hagel “have been friends for many years.”  With friends like these…

Given his Palin pick, McCain has forever forfeited his right to criticize anybody else’s choices for anything.

Hagel Will Be Confirmed

NY Sen. Chuck Schumer issued a statement this morning that he will support Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be Secretary of Defense.

Schumer met with Hagel at the White House for 90 minutes (the first senator Hagel met with, and Schumer isn’t even on the Armed Services Committee), and got what he needed in terms of assurances on Israel, Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, gays in the military.  Schumer also got some face time with the Prez.

Hagel told Schumer his “top priority” would be drawing up military plans to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.  He also said he doesn’t support negotiations with Hamas or Hezbollah unless they renounce terror and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

It’s now a done deal.  Hagel has checked all the boxes.  From here on out, all the neo-cons can do is embarrass themselves on a losing mission.

Powell Praises Hagel

Colin Powell is just such a class act and straight shooter.  Today on Meet the Press, he both rightly praised Chuck Hagel for DoD and criticized the Obama Administration’s poor handling of its choices so that they twist in the wind.

On the process:

“I think it was not handled well.  One of the problems, both with Ambassador [Susan] Rice and with Chuck Hagel, these sort of signals come out that, ‘This is who we are thinking about.’ And you’re left out there to dangle for weeks.  Well, if this is who you’re going to nominate, nominate them, and let’s get on with the process.”

On Hagel:

“I’m very supportive of the state of Israel.  So is Senator Hagel, and you’ll see that in the confirmation hearings, but it doesn’t mean you have to agree with every single position that the Israeli government takes.”

Realist Hagel and His Neo-Con Haters

Those who oppose Chuck Hagel for DoD, and either whisper or shout that he is anti-Israel/anti-Semitic are really saying that to be pro-Israel, you have to support absolutely everything that Benjamin Netanyahu wants and stands for.

It’s like saying that you’re anti-American unless you support the GOP or anti-British unless you support the Tories.

Suddenly support for Israel is limited to support for its far right.

By this bizarre standard there are a whole lot of folks in Israel and politicians in its Knesset who are anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.

Senators like John McCain and Lindsey Graham and newbie Ted Cruz are afraid of Hagel.  They want to stay in Afghanistan forever, and they know that Hagel will argue to get out sooner than the end of 2014, which is what this war-weary country wants.

Now sometimes being war-weary doesn’t mean you’re right, sometimes you have to suck it up and stick it out, but in this case, the mood of the country matches the strategic reality that we have nothing to gain by staying longer in Afghanistan.

The Hagel haters also fear that he will be an effective spokesman for making DoD more efficient.  They can see him on the Sunday talk shows convincingly arguing that some weapons systems can be eliminated, that the defense budget can be cut without making us less safe.  They can see him authoring cogent op-eds that will sway opinion leaders.

I am excited about the combo of Hagel at DoD and Brennan at CIA.  Brennan is our Drone Guy, and he and Hagel will continue to fight the War on Terror the way it needs to be fought, with more drones and special forces, not tens of thousands of troops stuck manning mountain outposts while Al Qaeda finds other homes.

As Al Qaeda and its affiliates move and spread, we have to be as flexible as they are.  We had as many drone strikes in Yemen in 2012 as we did in Pakistan because we are taking the fight to the enemy.  There is talk of drone strikes in Mali (and maybe they are happening as I write this) because that’s where Al Qaeda is.

Obama, Hagel, and Brennan get it.  They see the big picture of how everything fits together. They see the importance of our relationship with Pakistan, frustrating and infuriating as it is.  They see how the war in Iraq destabilized the region and upset the balance of power by taking away Iran’s biggest rival and constraint.    Now Iran and Iraq are friends, and Iran is freer to pursue its dreams of hegemony in the region.  Hagel is a realist like Bush 41, who recognized that we should kick Iraq out of Kuwait, but not continue to Baghdad because we were better off with Saddam Hussein in power.


A Little White House Snark

With respect to GOP opposition to  Chuck Hagel’s nomination as Secretary of Defense, a White House official emailed Politico:

“[O]nly one Senator, Sen. Cruz, has gone on the record to say he’ll vote ‘no.’  (And we appreciate Ted Cruz’s comments during his first week on the job.”

Ted Cruz is the new Tea Party guy from Texas.

The Knives Are Out

Sen. Lindsey “Butters” Graham (R-SC) said today that Chuck Hagel “would be the most antagonistic secretary of defense towards the state of Israel in our nation’s history.”

This is the same Hagel that Graham’s dear, dear friend John McCain seriously considered for his running mate before deciding it was better to go with the moron because, you know, all those disappointed Hillary supporters would just love Palin.

But from the GOP’s perspective anything, or anyone, that Obama touches immediately turns to shit and they have to oppose it.