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“A High Tech Filibuster”: Congressional Hazing Of Chuck Hagel Was A Waste Of Time

Chris Dodd was a new, young senator in 1982, when C. Everett Koop was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to serve as the nation’s surgeon general. A lot of liberals like then-Senator Dodd didn’t like Koop, who was anti-abortion, and saw him as the embodiment of the Moral Majority conservatism they despised. Dodd, who was then in the Senate barely a year, voted against Koop’s nomination. The surgeon general was approved by the Senate anyway, 60-24.

Dodd matured as a legislator, and Koop developed into a surgeon general Democrats had not expected him to be. Despite heavy pressure from social conservatives, Koop refused to declare that abortions performed by a qualified medical doctor were bad for a woman’s health. He was a leader in the battle against AIDS—a no-brainer now, but in the considerably more conservative ’80s, when it was seen as a gay man’s disease, something of a scandal. Koop, who died this week at 96, also was aggressive in the fight against tobacco use, particularly among children.

Koop may have forgotten Dodd’s vote against him. Dodd didn’t. Years after the confirmation, Dodd wrote a letter to Koop apologizing for his “no” vote. “He did a wonderful job as Surgeon General of the country, and I voted against him over issues that I didn’t really think through very carefully. And I regretted that,” Dodd told an NBC interviewer.

Fast-forward to this week, and the world of the U.S. Senate looks much different. Threats to hold up nominees for a slew of offices, from cabinet secretary to U.S. Marshall, are appallingly common. Sometimes the filibuster threat is a means to another end, a way to pressure Democrats or the Obama administration to give in on an unrelated topic. And sometimes the holdup hinges on an argument that is difficult to defend: The nominee isn’t who the minority party would have picked, so he or she can’t have the job. It’s remarkable that anyone in the Senate could presume to tell the president who he should hire to advise him, even when the paychecks come from public funds. It would be wrong for a Democratic senator to attempt to withhold funding, say, for the payroll of a GOP colleague who hired like-minded staffers to advise him or her. So why can’t President Obama pick his own cabinet, short of selecting someone corrupt or blatantly incompetent?

Chuck Hagel has been on both sides of the equation, serving in the U.S. Senate, where he had to vote on numerous nominations, and facing a battle to be confirmed as defense secretary. Hagel is a Republican, he won two Purple Hearts in Vietnam, and served two terms in the U.S. Senate. But he was nominated by Obama, which is enough to taint any nominee in the eyes of some Republicans. They grilled him in the Armed Services Committee, which was to be expected. Some questioned whether he was anti-Semitic, based on a cheap and pejorative interpretation of comments Hagel had made about a pro-Israel lobby. And one senator, Ted Cruz of Texas, had the audacity to suggest, with zero evidence, that Hagel had received income from North Korea.

Hagel went through a high-tech, waste-of-time hazing before he was finally confirmed Wednesday evening, 58-41. In coming years, will any senator write a note of apology to the new defense secretary?

 

By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, February 27, 2013

February 28, 2013 Posted by | Senate | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Adultery For Me, But Not For Thee: A Master List Of Gingrich’s Hypocrisies

Newt Gingrich is no stranger to hypocrisies. It’s just that his own self-righteousness often gets in the way of admitting to them: “There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate,” the family-values candidate once famously said about his multiple extra-marital affairs. So in the service of airing out other yawning gaps between Newt’s words and deeds that may have emerged when the candidate was too busy loving America, TNR has compiled the following index:

On Christian moralizing: Gingrich’s litany of infidelities has been widely reported, as has his habit of leaving wives for mistresses. Of the affair that he carried on with a volunteer during his first campaign in 1974, one of his aides said, “We’d have won in 1974 if we could have kept him out of the office, screwing her on the desk.” But that hasn’t stopped him from claiming positions of moral loftiness, decrying the impending downfall of our society, and penning books arguing, “There is no attack on American culture more deadly and more historically dishonest than the secular effort to drive God out of America’s public life.” His second wife, in a 2010 interview with Esquire, claimed, “He believes that what he says in public and how he lives don’t have to be connected. … If you believe that, then yeah, you can run for president.”

On shady book deals: In the late 1980s, Gingrich launched a vicious attack on Democratic Speaker Jim Wright, arguing that bulk sales of his book had been crafted to avoid laws limiting outside income for members of Congress. By the mid-90s, however, Gingrich found himself in a strikingly similar position, as it came to light that he had received a $4.5 million advance from HarperCollins in a two-book deal. Then, in the spirit of one doing one better, it later came out that one of Gingrich’s charities had bought the books en masse.

On Obamacare and death panels: In July 2009, Newt Gingrich was director of a health care think tank and a staunch advocate of so-called “death panels,” writing, “If [end-of-life-counseling] was used to care for the approximately 4.5 million Medicare beneficiaries who die every year, Medicare could save more than $33 billion a year.” But a year later, as he weighed his presidential aspirations, Gingrich took a different tack on Obama’s plan to reimburse doctors for such consultations: “You’re asking us to trust turning power over to the government, when there clearly are people in America who believe in establishing euthanasia.”

On the housing crisis: In the Bloomberg-Washington Post debate, Newt called, with a straight face, for the jailing of Chris Dodd and Barney Frank: “In Barney Frank’s case,” he advised, “go back and look at the lobbyists he was close to at—at Freddie Mac. … Everybody in the media who wants to go after the business community ought to start by going after the politicians who have been at the heart of the sickness which is weakening this country.” All that rage at lobbyists for the housing agencies … from a man whom Freddie Mac paid between $1.6 and $1.8 million for his “advice as a historian.” Which definitely isn’t lobbying, and would never qualify as the sort of relationship that he just suggested was worthy of being jailed for.

On drug policy: As a good child of the ’60s, Newt smoked pot, and as a young congressman in 1981, he authored a bill to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes. But Gingrich’s more recent stated methods for dealing with drug offenders might have placed his younger self in a tight spot. Just last week, he argued that when it comes to dealing with illegal drugs, “Places like Singapore have been the most successful at doing that,” ostensibly endorsing the idea that anyone caught with 18 ounces of cannabis face mandatory death by hanging.

On corruption: Newt led Republicans to power in 1994 in part by blasting Democrats as being hopelessly corrupt. But soon after, Gingrich engaged in his own congressional corruption, getting slammed by the House Ethics Committee on a multitude of charges: of laundering donations through charities, of using a charity called “Learning for Earning” to pay the salary of a staffer writing a Newt Gingrich biography, and of lying to the ethics committee. Gingrich eventually had to pay a $300,000 fine for his transgressions.

On the Clinton impeachment: While leading impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton for lying about an extra-marital affair, Newt was … having an extra-marital affair. When he was later asked whether he considered himself to be inhabiting a “glass house” during the proceedings, he reluctantly agreed, but defended himself by saying, “I think you have to look at whether or not people have to be perfect in order to be leaders. I don’t think I’m perfect. I admitted I had problems. I admitted that I sought forgiveness.”

 

By: Thomas Stackpole, Darius Tahir and Jarad Vary, The New Republic, December 5, 2011

December 10, 2011 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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