Hagel filibusterworthy? [Updated]

Bird Dog's picture

Barack Obama doesn't like Republicans much, which is fine. I don't like Obama much either. As mentioned here, Obama doesn't want to work with the GOP, he wants to break the GOP. We also know that Obama wants to make significant cuts in defense spending. For a conformist and uncourageous Democrat like Obama, there aren't any acceptable places to cut spending except for defense. Considering this, his choice of Hagel is expressly political. As David Brooks noted:

Chuck Hagel has been nominated to supervise the beginning of this generation-long process of defense cutbacks. If a Democratic president is going to slash defense, he probably wants a Republican at the Pentagon to give him political cover, and he probably wants a decorated war hero to boot.

Obama wants to slash defense spending and he wants a Republican to preside over the slashing. Although Hagel's positions on foreign policy are not terribly different from Obama's, his choice could not be more political. The thing is, there are plenty of others in the field in his own party who are more qualified than Hagel to run a massive military bureaucracy. And Hagel's foreign policy views do matter:

Savor that, "As head of the Pentagon, Hagel would not determine foreign policy." No, he would not. But he would have substantial control over the information, advice, and policy options available to the person who does determine foreign policy.

Suppose a president were to request an assessment of a hypothetical strike on Iran. Suppose the secretary of defense delivers to him a plan requiring the insertion of US ground forces into Iranian cities to be sure of destroying relevant facilities. That "plan" is as much a veto of a strike as any decision.

Donald Rumsfeld enabled the Iraq war by producing estimates it could be won with as few as 135,000 troops. Had he instead on 300,000, the war would not have occurred: it would have seemed too heavy a lift. (As indeed it proved.)

A Secretary Hagel could similarly thwart policies he disapproved of by magnifying their cost and difficulty. That's why his views matter, and that's why it's so disingenuous to claim they do not.

The Iranian mullahs say, "Two thumbs up!" Obama's keeping Robert Gates as SecDef was both bipartisan and smart, but the choice of Hagel is neither. If Obama wants to put an axe to defense spending, fine, then he should do it with a SecDef from his own party. This petty and vindictive pick will only further ensure that the president will get nothing of import done in his second term. Will it break the GOP per Obama's objective? If Hagel gets filibustered, no. If he gets confirmed, maybe or maybe not. Do I support Hagel as SecDef? No, because the politics behind the pick stinks.

UPDATE: Here's another reason for Obama picking a Republican SecDef for political cover.

The Obama administration does not rule out a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan after 2014, the White House said on Tuesday, just days before President Barack Obama is due to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Of course, this could be a case of Obama creating leverage in his upcoming talks with Karzai. Or not. The numbers after 2014 were 10,000 to 30,000, then revised downward to as low as 2,500, and now to as low as zero.

Oh, and I didn't make a case against Hagel on the issues here and because I already did it there. There is a conservative and liberal argument against Hagel on the issues. My apologies for thinking that liberals read and remember my recent diaries.


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Obama is trying to break the Republican party.  It's already broken.  And the damage was self-inflicted.


As for fillbustering Hagel, of course they should.  Having lost the prez election, lost the senatorial election, and lost the total vote count in the House, it seems only logical. 

“Two clichés make us laugh but a hundred clichés move us, because we sense dimly that the clichés are talking among themselves, celebrating a reunion." - Umberto Eco

The problem isn't Hagel and it isn't Obama

HankP's picture

the problem is the insane party that calls a rock ribbed Republican of ten years ago a RINO and a traitor. Oh yeah, and the brainless people who follow the lead of everything they read in conservative rags (no one here, of course).


I blame it all on the Internet

Isn't two Republican Sec Defs a problem with Obama?


Why isn't Hagel's nomination viewed by Democrats as excessive centrism and excessive cozying up to Republicans?

Not if they do what he wants

HankP's picture

I haven't seen any evidence that Gates didn't follow Obama's wishes, and I doubt Hagel will fail to do so either.


Besides, Obama is a centrist and wants to be seen as a centrist. Nothing new there.


I blame it all on the Internet

No, No Problem if Hagel can In Fact Hack at some DefenseSpending


...avoid a war with Iran, and beat the beast of the Israeli Right a little, then everything about Hagel is mine to love.


Best Wishes, Traveller

And no Democrat is capable


of cutting defense spending, avoiding an Iranian war, and pushing back against the Israeli right?


It's bad enough that Obama is so indifferent to his party that he nominates people like Kerry who might get replaced by a Republican. The GOP would already be pushing back at this point. 


But nominating so many non-Democrats into cabinet positions? Bush in two terms had one non-Republican serving as Transportation Secretary.


Obama's got a Republican at Transportation, which would make things even. But then he's gone on to have many non-Democrats in the most central positions in his admin., including Treasury Sec, Sec. of the Army, and now two separate Sec Defs.


I'm curious why there's no push-back.

After a comment like that,

Bird Dog's picture

it seems that you agree with me. Obama should have picked a Dem for SecDef.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

I don't mind because I think


I don't mind because I think by embracing centrist Republicans he further alienates the GOP extremists.

Way back,


in ancient times, when He Who Shall Not be Named decided for the country, a scrappy straight talkin,' torture-survivin' war hero had this to say about Hagel:


“I’d be honored to have Chuck with me in any capacity,” he said. “He’d make a great secretary of state.”




At a 2007 fundraiser, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called Hagel “one of the premier foreign policy voices (and) one of the giants in the United States Senate,” according to the Nebraska-based Lincoln Journal Star.


The following year, McConnell, bidding farewell to his retiring colleague, praised Hagel as a “great statesm[a]n” and “leading voice in foreign affairs.”

“In two terms in the Senate, Chuck has earned the respect of his colleagues and risen to national prominence as a clear voice on foreign policy and national security,” McConnell said. “Chuck’s stature as a leading voice in foreign affairs has earned him a reputation, in just 12 years in the Senate, as one of Nebraska’s great statesmen. This is a tribute to his intelligence, hard work, and devotion to a country that he has served his entire adult life.”


Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) bid Hagel farewell by praising Hagel’s “independent background” and “sense of independence.” Alexander said Hagel — along with then-Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) — “understands the world better than almost anyone.”

A complete slap in the face, Hagel as SecDef... Obama needs to know his place and be deferential to the opinions of leading republicans.


Something changed since then... something dusky and vaguely foreign seeming... 



Do you really think that there are genuine existential threats?

mmghosh's picture

What and where are they?

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

What does "political" mean?


And why is it a criticism?


Does it mean taking into account strategic considerations while you're trying to enact your agenda?


Don't all politicians do that? And aren't they justified in doing so?


If somebody is choosing their own interest over the country's interests, that is deplorable. But using tactics to enact what they think is best for the country? What is wrong with that?

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

Why break the party?


They will do it themselves over the debt ceiling. Already hearing Republican surrogates pooh-pooh the notion of default. 

They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist...
-- General John B. Sedgwick, 1864

That would be fine

Bird Dog's picture

I would prefer the GOP break if they caused a default. I've said it in the previous debt ceiling go-round and my position hasn't changed. If debt ceiling talks break down and we end up defaulting, I'm outta the GOP. What I don't need is a president acting in bad faith.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Filibusters Don't Stop Cabinet Nominees

M Scott Eiland's picture

Screaming bloody murder about the nominee's glaring weaknesses has been known to--Hagel's got a history of hostility to Israel and is not loved by Republicans in general. The best available strategy to stop him would be to blast him on the Israel question, have the Republican Senators disown him en masse, and have surrogates quietly or not so quietly point out the hypocrisy of the administration that just got re-elected while blasting "war against women" propaganda in nominating a candidate on record as being opposed to abortion in cases of rape.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Do you really think


that the average US citizen really cares that much one way or the other towards Israel? Better question - do you think there's any record of Hagel saying or doing anything "against" Israel that would be perceived as beyond the pale to most ordinary Americans? Outside of the whacko-fundamentalists and the right wing politicians that rely on them for money, I don't have the sense that this will carry water politically. And to most of the country -- for good reason -- this will be seen as bipartisanship - that word that has been so touted and acclaimed as a panacea as of late. Obama will look like a sensible good guy, and the gop house will be even more despised.


That isn't to say that they won't try it anyway. Go Tea Party!


And I still do not believe we should be taking cues from Iranian press releases -- or Israel -- when it comes to choosing political leaders. Go USA, we're number one. The rest can take a far back seat.


As for abortion, Hagel's view is despicable. But as SecDef he won't really have any say one way or another. Politics. Sometimes you have to team up with as5h*0les.



Hagel has said this


“I support Israel, but my first interest is I take an oath of office to the Constitution of the United States, not to a president, not to a party, not to Israel. If I go run for Senate in Israel, I’ll do that.”


Outside of a small fringe I don't think that statement will bother most ordinary Americans.

"a small fringe"

Jay C's picture

Unfortunately, that "fringe" has an outsize influence on the Beltway Village, and their media enablers. Not to mention the Conservative Media Machine which (whatever they or their puppetmasters may actually think about the Israel Lobby and/or its influence) will be quick to jump in - especially when there are Democrats in office - to try to make even the mildest critic of Israeli policies into a veritable Julius Streicher .

I hear ya.


A few years ago I'd have made the same guess you did. But I think we're at a saturation level right now.


I think the noisy dimwits in the 27% making a big deal out of this will cause one of 2 results: 1) Hagel becomes secdef, the sky doesn't fall during the next few years, GOP make themselves look like even bigger strident, whiney hyperpartisans who care more about some other country than their own. Obama gets praise for being bipartisan, which is a big compliment these days for some reason. He reinforces his appearance of a sensible moderate. or --  2) Hagel doesn't get nominated because the house gop make clear to the electorate that they really are malicious morons. Obama appoints somebody else and life goes on. Non-wingnuts see the gop house as a bunch of even more craven slimecups than they had been seen before.


Politically this is lose/lose for the GOP. Politically I think it's a good move, but I can't stand Hagel.


The idea that Obama should put his hand in a fire because of some previous campaign promises is either naive, stupid or willfully ignorant with an alterior motive. 


Go Teabaggers, go!

As a matter of fact,

aireachail's picture

that's precisely what I'd want to hear from a prospective SecDef.


How could that possibly be controversial?

Air, Just once I want to hear prospective SecDef say


"Yo! Yo! Yo! Cuddly.  What up dawg?  This sh*t is off the chaaaaaaain. Know what I'm sayin', know what I'm sayin' yeeeeeah."

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Too late.

aireachail's picture

I overheard Caspar Weinberger say precisely that at a reception at the Pentagon in 1985.





I haven't read any polls lately, skewed or un-skewed. But I'm gonna guess that the US population at large is sick and tired of war in the middle east and isn't real into picking a fight with Iran right now.


And is that really the most controversial thing Hagel has said? There's nothing anti-semitic about it, it's downright patriotic. Maybe dead breitbart can uncover some more tidbits.

Not since John Tower

Bird Dog's picture

Well, that wasn't a filibuster. This really depends on whether GOP Senators can form a big enough coalition. I doubt there are the votes.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009



a conformist and uncourageous Democrat


Seems like you mean a Democrat who does not want to enact republican policy all the time. I hope they do slash military spending, though I doubt much will go no matter who's in charge. And for the umpteenth time, why should the USA be crafting its policy, choice in leadership, etc., based on PR statements from Iran?


This petty and vindictive pick will only further ensure that the president will get nothing of import done in his second term.

GOP house is going to do everything it can to block anything Obama even suggests, regardless of who he picks to be secretary of defense or Whitehouse gardener. Top gopers have said to reporters that their #1 goal is to obstruct Obama. BD, the whole point of everything you're posting about is politics, why shouldn't politics be involved here? This is a logical move by Obama. Just as it is a logical move by the GOP to scream about how they want entitlements cuts, while never specifying what those cuts should be.


Your party lost an election. Politics doesn't end there, nor will it ever, nor would it have if romney had won. The GOP will not go away or break or whatever term you want to use, though I can hold a glimmer of hope that it will. Go Tea Party!

We've always been at war with Eastasia


Picking a Republican for a key post is a vindictive way to break the GOP.


Um... yeah, sure. I think I took the wrong pill today, was it the red or the blue? This is just too surreal to respond seriously.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

As usual


The Democratic wing of the Democratic Party has its hopes pinned on incoherent right wing rage to stop Obama from behaving like a moderate Republican.

Obama has never wanted to work with Eurasia

brutusettu's picture

Working with the GOP entails giving the GOP House what the GOP state gerrymanders want..............picking a person from the other party to do something is partisanship at its worst I tell ya.

Blissful bi partisanship


can only be achieved when Obama picks nominees agreed to by a super-majority of the GOP.


Otherwise, he should step down for the sake of the republic and the feelings of the sensitive people who are more important than me or you.



Why wouldn't a Republican want to have a Republican


oversee cuts to the defense budget?  The last thing I'd think the GOP would want to see is Democrats getting full credit for govt spending cuts.  Heck, I'd imagine this would make a decent GOP campaign argument in 2016 when I think there's a chance that spending cuts might be more popular 'Dems so inept at controlling the size of govt, they needed to appoint Republicans to do it for them.  Why don't you do it instead?'

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

A Republican would not want to have a Republican like...

Bird Dog's picture

...Hagel to preside over cuts. Gates is a different story. He has a track record and he was one of the best-ever SecDefs.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

"a Republican like Hagel"

Jay C's picture

Why not, BD? What's wrong with him? Your whole diary is one long screed about the political optics of Hagel's DoD nomination, and notably short on delineating any reasons why the former Senator shouldn't be confirmed. Other than "Republicans will pitch a  bitch over him", which is really a pretty poor basis for complaints.


Congressional Republicans in the 113th Congress are most likely going to just as mindlessly obstructionist towards President Obama, his Administration, and every single one of his initiatives and/or programs as their predecessors were in the 112th: why do you think they wouldn't make as big a (hypocritically fraudulent) fuss over ANY Obama nominee? Or are the political optics of governing the only thing that matters?


Bird Dog's picture

First, see my update. Second, it is a fallacy for you to believe that the GOP is going to "mindlessly" obstruct everything Obama does. Kerry will sail through the Senate with barely a grumble.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009




Republicans are willing to let Kerry through since they think that gives Scott Brown a good shot of picking up his seat. A seat which no Republican has a shot at if Kerry ran again. Given the wide coverage that this has received it's curious that you failed to mention it.

Brennan will also sail through

Bird Dog's picture

I don't see GOP Senators grouping together to "mindlessly" obstruct his nomination. Whether Scott Brown is there or not, I don't see Republicans obstructing Kerry. He was a legitimate presidential candidate, like Hillary, with views that aren't terribly different from hers or Barry's.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

"Disingenuous" is a personal attack


I wish you'd avoided mind-reading fellow posters.


With respect to mind-reading Obama, however, he is clearly trying to destroy the GOP by giving Scott Brown another shot at a Senate seat. This is an 11 dimensional hyperpartisan strategy.

"Disengenuous" applies to the comment


"You're a filthy liar" would be a personal attack.


I would love to see the Republicans filibuster a Republican nominee for defense though, especially if it's while Reid is still trying to sell the idea of filibuster reform.

Ok, I did check the links, BD

Jay C's picture

to your "case" against Hagel's nomination from last Sunday's thread - I noticed that YOU didn't actually articulate the case, but just linked to others doing so. I'm still under-impressed with the arguments: the "liberal reasons" both come from the same guy: and seem mainly related to the fact that he has a pet candidate of his own to flog (Michele Flournoy); the "conservative case" is even less convincing: the two links are (again) obsessively focused on Israel, and, in the case of Bill Kristol's screed, is immediately dismissable for two reasons: one, he makes an a priori assumption about Hagel's "distaste for Israel and Jews" which is, at best, "facts not in evidence" and two, it was written by Bill Kristol.


However, fairly enough, you're right about the "mindlessly" quip: I'll avoid that formulation in the future as best I can: though I'm not sure John Kerry's nomination at State will be that much of a cakewalk: I wouldn't be surprised to the see the Swiftboaters pop out of the woodwork, again.

"credit" for spending cuts??

Jay C's picture

Not as long as said cuts affect the Defense Department - "military" spending (scarequotes deliberate - a large amount of the DoD budget goes for things not directly related to the uniformed armed services: mainly industry/technology, but that's another issue) is the biggest and fattest sacred cow in the whole Federal herd.

As Mitt Romney repeatedly articulated in the last election campaign, the only approved Republican attitude toward military spending is "MORE! MORE! MORE!", and the GOP (in my humble analysis, anyway) is so inextricably wedded to the principle of maintaining that military expenditures really aren't "government spending" that the only thing they are able to do with regard to ANY Democratic plan is to try to demagogue it as "destroying our defenses" or "not supporting the troops" or whatever flag-wrapped BS they can come up to try to keep that MIC gravy train rolling.... 


TXG1112's picture

BD, I really don't think either of these statements are defensible:

If Obama wants to put an axe to defense spending, fine, then he should do it with a SecDef from his own party. This petty and vindictive pick will only further ensure that the president will get nothing of import done in his second term. 

You don't even bother to try. Like all of the criticism of Hagel I've seen so far it merely appears to be a very thinly veiled apologia for neoconservative foreign policy.


As for me, I would be very happy if Obama manages to forge a new bipartisan consensus where we're not spending ourselves into ruin on expensive military toys and reckless foreign adventurism. The military industrial complex needs to broken down brick by brick and if the Hagel pick gives Obama the clout and cover needed to do so then I'm all for it. I'll be honest though, I don't really think we'll end up with much more than a marginal reduction in spending.

--- I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered. My life is my own.

They're easily defensible

Bird Dog's picture

You're not even bothering to try to understand why.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Come on BD

TXG1112's picture

You're not even trying here. "You don't understand my post" is not a valid argument. Present some facts strung together and provide some conclusions. I'm not in the business of filling in the gaps for you. If you're unwilling or unable, I have to assume that you cannot.

--- I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered. My life is my own.


Bird Dog's picture

Your feelings about who's making efforts is misplaced, TX. I've already made the liberal and conservative case, via links, here, most of the rationale of which I agree with. The point I'm making here is the larger political context of Obama's choice.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Thanks for the update.

TXG1112's picture

I understand your criticism of Hagel on the issues, I just don't agree with them - which is fine. What I continue to find baffling is your assertion that picking a moderate member of the opposition party is somehow unseemly or unsportsmanlike. Hagel's views appear to be in alignment with the Presidents and Obama is calculating that appointing him is the best way forwards with implementing his agenda. Considering your regular criticisms of "hyper partisanship" I honestly don't understand your position on this.

--- I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered. My life is my own.

Uhm, so why did Obama nominate Gates?


your hypothesis of "wanting to break the Republicans" and "have a Republican presiding over deep defense cuts to humiliate the party" doesn't explain why a Republican has already served as SecDef, nor why Obama has McHugh as Sec of the Army. 


So here's your choices: (a) Obama is more centrist and bipartisany than you're giving him credit for, and rewarding moderate Republicans is part of his centrism and post-partisanship or (b) Obama is an uncourageous hyperpartisan, trying to break the opposition by having them participate in his administration.


(b) looks like just the latest incoherent conservative attack. Add on that in this case it's sounding desperate for blaming fissures w/in the party on Obama. 

Not for the same reasons as Hagel

Bird Dog's picture

Different times.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Suddenly Obama became a hyperpartisan


Yes, we've all noticed how vastly different Obama is this term. Last term he appted Republicans into positions of power at Defense and spent half his time working on a Grand Bargain. This term he's doing the exact same things, but he's trying to destroy the GOP by doing them!


Bird Dog's picture

Like I said, different times.

If Obama is working on some sort of Grand Bargain, I'm not seeing it. He floated a few things on entitlement reform but the chasm is too great.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

I'm just not seeing the brass-knuckled Obama that you're


talking about. I mean, look at the recent tax increase. The threshold for top marginal tax rate was raised and a lot of other GWB changes on dividends and capital gains were locked in. And it sailed through the Senate with a hair under 90 votes.


Or are you talking about budget negotiations? That Obama's refusing to drastically scale back the welfare state because OMG the budget deficit will eat us alive Right Now is hardly a refusal to compromise or attempt to "break" the GOP.

He's doing it in pieces, in case you hadn't noticed


1 trillion in spending cuts in the 2011 debt ceiling deal, the nearly trillion in tax revenues last month, and then a 3rd installment coming soon. 


The pieces look likely to achieve about 1/2 - 2/3rds of Obama's original goal of 4 trillion in deficit reduction, which he's been working on since 2010. It's just one example of Obama's continuity.


I have no idea why you believe there's a radical discontinuity between a Democrat who was willing to appoint a Republican in his first term - which Republican presidents *never* do - to someone who is attempting to destroy the GOP ... by appting Republicans.


It's an idiotic read of events, really. 


Bird Dog's picture

if you feel that there's no difference between Obama's keeping Gates and hiring Hagel, then I agree that that is an idiotic read of events.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009