State and Defense Need to Talk Amongst Themselves — UPDATE

As we wonder whether the U. S. will join with Iran on Iraq, we face the threshold question of whether the Pentagon will join with the State Department.

Secretary of State John Kerry says that “We’re open to discussions” on military cooperation with Iran.

But at the Defense Department, not so much.  A spokesman there says, “There are no plans to consult with Iran on military actions inside Iraq.  We are not planning to engage in military-to-military discussions with Iran.”

UPDATE — The White House is with the Pentagon on this one, saying there will be no military coordination with Iran.  So that seems to be an, um, “red line” for the Administration.

A Smarter Sequester

The GOP’s funding bill that will keep the government from shutting down on March 27 moves about $10.4 billion to the Pentagon’s operations and maintenance account.  The money will be shifted from personnel, R & D, and equipment procurement.

The bill also provides $2 billion more than last year for diplomatic security, along with $40 million more for fighting wildfires, $363 million more for nuclear security, $129 million more for FBI salaries.   These increases are achieved by moving money around.  The bill doesn’t increase funding for Customs and Border Protection from last year, but requires them to keep current staffing and detention beds.

The GOP is doing full appropriations bill for both DoD and Veterans Affairs, rather than just a continuing resolution which works out better for them.  Indeed, defense contractors have been more upset about dealing with a continuing resolution that dealing with the sequester.

The GOP bill fixes some of the arbitrariness of the sequester and makes the cuts more rational.

For more, see “House government funding bill seeks to soften sequester’s blow,” Erik Wasson and Jeremy Herb, The Hill

Prez Has More Sequester Flexibility Than WH Admits

From On The Money blog; The Hill; Erik Wesson, Jeremy Herb and Keith Laing:

“The White House has made the case it has almost no flexibility….

“But budget experts say some nuances within the law do give the administration some room to maneuver, though they acknowledge it is limited.

“For example, the administration has broad authority to define ‘program, project and activity,’ according to Barry Anderson, a former budget official under President George H. W. Bush.  He said this would allow some flexibility in making cuts.

“OMB said Friday that it will be issuing the sequester order on the account level and agencies will determine the program, project and activity definition.”

The WSJ argued that the President has a lot of flexibility in its op-ed  “The Sequester Revelation”:
“[T]he White House says it must now cut across the board regardless of how important a given PPA is.
“Not so fast.  Programs, projects and activities are a technical category of the federal budget, but the sequester actually occurs at the roughly 1,200 broader units known as budget accounts.  Some accounts are small, but others contain hundreds of PPAs and the larger accounts run to billions of dollars.  For the Pentagon in particular, the distinction between PPAs and accounts is huge.”
The President’s hands may be tied, but we’re not going to see any burn marks from this sequester.  If they wanted to send the Harry Truman to the Persian Gulf tonight, they certainly could.

We Almost Have a New Secretary of Defense

The Senate has voted, 71-27, to end debate on Chuck Hagel’s nomination for Secretary of Defense.  That hurdle needed 60 votes.

The confirmation vote is at 4:30 EST today.  He will need just a simple majority for that, and with 55 Democrats in the Senate, he is assured of being confirmed.  Plus he’ll get some GOP votes.

The crazies will of course keep looking for those “Friends of Hamas” until the votes are cast.


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 Haters Couldn’t Take — or Recognize — a Joke

We in the reality-based community know that the group “Friends of Hamas” doesn’t exist except in the fevered imaginations of those who hate the President and his pick for DoD, Chuck Hagel.

Today we learned the origin of the bizarre “Friends” trope.  Dan Friedman of the New York Daily News explains* how he made up the name and threw it out jokingly — or so he thought! — in a conversation with a GOP aide on the Hill.  He also mentioned the “Junior League of Hezbollah” for good measure.  Friedman writes:

“The names were so over-the-top, so linked to terrorism in the Middle East, that it was clear I was talking hypothetically and hyperbolically.  No one could take seriously the idea that organizations with those names existed — let alone that a former senator would speak to them.  Or so I thought.”

Dan Friedman, you  obviously thought wrong.  First of all, these folks have no sense of humor, they are self-righteously grim.  Second, they believe the president is determined to destroy our way of life, so it stands to reason his cabinet picks must be evil too, especially in the second term when the president doesn’t have to run again and can show his true Kenyan Muslim Communist colors.

Anyway, next thing Friedman knew, had a “Friends of Hamas” story and the rest of the neocon/Tea Party world picked it up and ran with it.

This preposterous and pathetic little story tells you everything you need you know about our politics right now.  The “Friends of Stupid” have way too much power.

* “‘Friends of Hamas’:  My role in the birth of a rumor”

GOP Delays Hagel Vote Till After Recess

On a 58-40 vote, the GOP prevented an up or down vote on Chuck Hagel’s nomination today.  The nomination will be taken up again when the Senate returns from recess in ten days.  The GOP will use the extra time to try to dig up disqualifying dirt on their former colleague.

Having said he would hold the vote tomorrow morning, Majority Leader Harry Reid changed his mind, and shortly after 3 P. M. this afternoon said that the vote would be at 4:15 today.