The Senate Republican vendetta against Chuck Hagel – acted out in the filibuster that has derailed his nomination as Secretary of Defense – seems extraordinarily petty — if John McCain (R-AZ) is telling the truth. The Arizona senator publicly acknowledged that his party’s rejection of Hagel, a fellow Republican and decorated Vietnam veteran, was motivated by old grudges dating from the Bush administration.
“There’s a lot of ill will towards Senator Hagel because when he was a Republican, he attacked President Bush mercilessly and said he was the worst president since Herbert Hoover and said the ‘surge’ was the worst blunder since the Vietnam war, which was nonsense,” McCain told Fox News after the vote on Thursday. “He was anti-his own party, and people…don’t forget that. You can disagree but if you’re disagreeable, people don’t forget that.”
So bent on vengeance were the Republicans that they even tolerated the McCarthyite diversions of Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), a freshman whose resemblance to the late Wisconsin demagogue emerged in his repeated insinuations that Hagel had secretly accepted money from North Korea and Saudi Arabia. This seemed to disturb McCain, but he admonished Cruz in the mildest terms possible, and without naming him.
When the Cruz smears fell flat, it became plain that the assault on Hagel’s nomination wasn’t based on any concern that rose to the level of Constitutional principle, national defense, or substantive foreign policy. Among the Republican senators who promoted the filibuster against Hagel were several, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and John Cornyn (R-TX) who had insisted when George W. Bush was president that every single one of his nominees deserved an “up or down vote” – and thus should not be subject, as a matter of presidential authority in Article II of the Constitution, to tactical delay.
But then all the rules are different, now that Barack Obama is (and remains) president.
Worse than their inconsistency over the filibuster — which at least is a bipartisan hypocrisy shared by Democrats — the Republicans have claimed that Hagel’s policy views are so far from the mainstream that he cannot be confirmed.
But the same senators almost unanimously confirmed the nomination of former senator John Kerry (D-MA) as Secretary of State, virtually without questioning any of his positions. Kerry, a superb and highly qualified choice, won that easy approval despite holding positions practically identical to those of Hagel concerning Mideast policy, Israel, Iran, North Korea, nuclear disarmament, and many other critical and controversial issues.
In fact, Kerry has ventured even further than Hagel on certain specific questions, such as the final status of Jerusalem in a potential peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, or the fate of Jewish settlements in occupied territory.
During his senatorial travels abroad over the years, Kerry became an outspoken advocate for international action against climate change – an activist stance that could hardly have endeared him to Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) and the other mossback climate deniers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who so eagerly rubber-stamped his nomination. Yet Hagel, a climate-change skeptic during his senatorial career, was harangued and vilified for eight hours during his nomination hearing, and then denied a vote on the Senate floor.
The contrast between the swift confirmation of Kerry and the blockading of Hagel also pointed up the phoniness of Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC). As a condition of permitting a vote on the Hagel nomination, Graham insisted that he must have additional information from the White House about the jihadi attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. But if that information is so essential, why didn’t Graham, McCain, and their fellow Republicans hold up the nomination of Kerry for the same reason? As everyone in Washington knows, the answer is an example of their partisan venality: They hoped that Kerry’s vacated seat might be filled in a special election by their former colleague from Massachusetts, Republican Scott Brown.
By the time that the Senate adjourned, it was clear that Hagel was short of only a single vote to achieve cloture – and that the Senate Democrats, determined to win his confirmation, will eventually achieve their goal. They must, not only because Hagel is a qualified nominee selected by the Commander in Chief, but because the Senate cannot accord veto power over the president’s national security nominations to Republican extremists.
By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, February 15, 2013
It struck me as amusing last week when former Vice President Dick Cheney, complaining about proposed measures to reduce gun violence, complained there “isn’t adequate regard for the rights of law-abiding citizens.” Given Cheney’s track record while in office, it seemed like an odd thing to say.
But these remarks from the weekend were even more striking.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney said Saturday night that President Barack Obama has jeopardized U.S. national security by nominating substandard candidates for key cabinet posts and by degrading the U.S. military.
“The performance now of Barack Obama as he staffs up the national security team for the second term is dismal,” Cheney said in comments to about 300 members of the Wyoming Republican Party.
Cheney, a Wyoming native, said it was vital to the nation’s national security that “good folks” hold the positions of secretary of state, CIA director and secretary of defense. “Frankly, what he has appointed are second-rate people,” he said.
There is a certain oddity that underpins Cheney’s whining. For many political observers, the fact that so many national security policies from the Bush/Cheney era are still in place is cause for alarm, though Cheney himself seems eager to suggest this administration has departed radically from his predecessor.
But really, that’s just scratching the surface of what’s wrong with Cheney’s odd perspective.
Whether you agree with their positions or not, there’s nothing even remotely “second rate” about John Kerry, Chuck Hagel, and John Brennan. These are experienced, capable individuals, with considerable expertise in their areas. Indeed, Kerry has a broad diplomatic background and was very nearly the president; Hagel is a decorated veteran and sage voice on the use of force (Cheney never got around to serving in the military before becoming the Pentagon chief); and Brennan actually served in the Bush/Cheney administration.
If the former V.P. has specific complaints about these nominees, I’d love to hear them.
But the real kicker here is Cheney’s confidence in his ability to make personnel assessments. Obama’s team, in Cheney’s mind, is “second rate,” but his team — filled with notorious names like Rumsfeld, Addington, and Libby — which oversaw some of the most spectacular failures in recent memory, was top tier?
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 11, 2013
Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) made a rare Senate appearance this morning, sitting in a wheelchair just off the floor so that members would have to see him as they entered the chamber. Why? Because they were poised to vote on ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, and Dole hoped to send a message.
It didn’t work. The Senate killed the treaty this afternoon, with a final vote of 61 to 38, which seems like a lopsided majority, but which fell short of the two-thirds necessary for ratification. Eight Republicans broke ranks and joined Democrats in support of the treaty, but the clear majority of the Senate GOP voted to block it.
The U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities, for those who’ve forgotten, is a human rights treaty negotiated by the George H.W. Bush administration, which has been ratified by 126 nations, including China, Russia, Iran, Cuba, Syria, and Saudi Arabia.
But most Senate Republicans saw it as a threat to American “sovereignty,” even though the treaty wouldn’t have required the United States to change its laws. When the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the treaty with bipartisan support in July, Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) explained the proposal simply “raises the [international] standard to our level without requiring us to go further.”
In other words, we wouldn’t actually have to do anything except say we like the treaty — and then wait for other signatories around the world to catch up to the United States’ Americans with Disabilities Act.
The treaty was endorsed by Dole, John McCain, and Dick Lugar, among other prominent Republican figures, but it didn’t matter. The GOP’s right-wing base, led in part by Rick Santorum, raised hysterical fears about the treaty, and most Senate Republicans took their cues from the party’s activists, not the party’s elder statesmen.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 4, 2012
This point bears emphasizing, I think. I suspect that the Republicans want to block Rice because they want Obama to name John Kerry because they believe that Scott Brown can win that seat back. And as I’ve written before, he probably can, in my admittedly somewhat removed view (but also in the view of certain Bostonians I’ve consulted on the matter)
McCain and Graham have other motivations: getting a scalp, keeping phony impeachment hopes alive, etc. But let’s not forget that these guys are politicians, and senators, and they think of politics and the Senate first. One less Democrat in the Senate would make for a nice little cherry on their sundae.
Which raises another point that deserves attention. If Harry Reid is going to push filibuster reform next January, why should they not include a provision that the minority can’t filibuster certain categories of major appointments? The number of vacancies in this administration, judgeships and other key positions, is mind-boggling, and it reached the point where the administration simply stopped trying to fill positions because some wingnut senator was placing a hold on every single nomination.
This too needs exposure to the old harsh disinfectant. But if Ayotte really puts a hold on Rice, I spect that’ll get lots of attention. Swell move by the party allegedly trying to reach out now to nonwhite voters eh?
By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, November 27, 2012
Let me give you the lowdown, one overlooked reason why Republican Mitt Romney will lose the presidential race Tuesday: the man Mitt himself. He can’t overcome his own character.
For 11 months of 2012, he had many chances to say something that was charming, witty, funny, or moving. But what a sour and dour vibe all the way.
We Americans don’t like that, especially in tough times—remember Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s jauntiness in the Great Depression? We like to like our presidents, of whatever party. The winning Barack Obama, on the other hand, is generally liked by the electorate, a large advantage in a close contest.
Laughter and light never broke through on Romney’s trail and grail to match the man his father—Gov. George Romney was—perchance to surpass him. It didn’t happen once. His wife Ann tried so hard to humanize him. Yet Romney never bonded with the American people, not even with the base of white men (mostly) who will vote for him tomorrow. Obama, who grew up a fatherless child and spent years searching for dreams from his absent Kenyan father, by contrast, has much more lightness and grace.
Give Romney this: tall, dark, and handsome, the man does look the part—his hair always perfectly parted. We were relieved to see him win the Republican circus freak primary. And yes, we were impressed at his crisp performance at the first debate.
But that’s all I have to say for the uxorious former governor of Massachusetts. The Mormon Organization Man’s excessive greed and ambition barely lurk below the slick surface. He can’t connect with 47 percent of us, by his own admission. A man of the people, he ain’t.
His vexing negativity goes hand in hand with an unwillingness to stick with any bedrock beliefs. The Washington Post ran an excellent editorial denouncing Romney’s “contempt” for voters, and his changing his positions radically over the course of his career. As the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy declared of Romney back in 1994: “I am pro-choice … My opponent is multiple-choice.” The line brought down the house in Boston.
It’s also worth noting that Romney’s peers—men who have vied with him on political stages—can’t stand him. I mean, it’s more than the usual give-and-take, spirited conflict between rivals. Kennedy, famous for having friends and allies on the other side of the aisle, found Romney hard work on a personal level. Sens. John Kerry, Harry Reid, and John McCain—two Democrats and a Republican—are three other senators known to loathe Romney.
The more we got to know you, Mitt Romney, the less we found to like. And in the end, presidential politics is personal.
By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, November 5, 2012