Beyond the Cusp

February 27, 2013

Republican Lack of Discipline Exposed by Hagel Confirmation

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There is a theory throughout the free world that on certain votes party discipline is expected. Such examples abound in the Parliaments in Europe, Israel, Japan, Australia, Canada and any we may have omitted. It has often been on display within the United States Congress, but almost exclusively by the Democrat legislators and almost never, actually might be never, from the Republican side of the aisle. The nomination by President Obama of former Senator Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense was problematic even before his dreadful performance at his confirmation hearings. As positions go in a President’s Cabinet, Secretary of State, CIA Chief, Chief of the FBI are the few of the positions which rival Secretary of Defense in their importance. This makes the ability to answer questions competently and without overly long hesitations very crucial. Mr. Hagel’s performance left loads to be desired. He not only stumbled on answering questions but also had to correct answers he had given after conferring with handlers sent to aid him in his responses. The United States does not need or desire a Secretary of Defense who is less prepared to answer vital questions than the average Senator would be. Even if this had been the only problem with the Hagel appointment it still would have been worthy of greater objection than was displayed.

But there were already other questions and difficulties posed by Senator Hagel’s previous statements concerning the United States staunchest Middle East ally Israel and his lack of resolve shown towards the Iranian nuclear program as well as his soft approach to such terrorist groups denoted as such by the State Department as Hamas and Hezballah. When one additionally inspects Senator Hagel’s voting record his appointment becomes all the more troublesome. Add in his flippant disregard for many such votes and his snide remark that there was no evidence that any of his votes ever did any damage to Israel which though technically true, it is not for want of trying on Hagel’s behalf and solely due to the fact that Hagel’s vote was among the minority and the vast majority of his fellow Senators supported the United State’s ally Israel. The final nail in the coffin for the Hagel appointment should have come when at least one Republican Senator decided to filibuster the nomination and requested his fellow Republicans support his efforts. Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma even wrote a letter asking as much and despite being given the support of a number of fellow Republican Senators; the party supported his efforts only through one cloture vote stalling the confirmation over one little weekend.

After supporting the Senator Inhofe intent to filibuster on a Friday vote, Senator Reid, the Majority Leader of the Senate, was assured by numerous Republicans that they would no longer support any further Republican efforts to filibuster and delay a confirmation vote. What makes the whole cloture vote fold by Republican Senators so disheartening is when the actual vote came to confirm the Hagel appointment as Secretary of Defense, the final vote was insufficient to have overcome the filibuster by a fair margin of 58-41, two votes short of cloture if the Senators had voted their up or down vote during the cloture vote. Despite the four Senators from the Republican side of the aisle who voted to approve the Hagel nomination, the cloture vote of 71-27 reveals that an additional thirteen Republican Senators voted to end the filibuster by their own party than eventually supported the nomination. The question which those whose Senators voted for cloture despite opposing the nomination must be asked is why, knowing that a vote for cloture guaranteed the nomination, did they ignore the sole path to resist this atrocious appointment and fold to the demands of President Obama, Senator Reid and the Democrats? Are they that afraid to stand strong for their beliefs and only vote their conscience when it will not make a difference and when their vote matters simply fold under even the slightest of pressures from the Democrats? What are they afraid of, missing out on some brie and red wine luncheons in the Capital Building or some other social affairs? If they are unable of standing when their votes matter, perhaps they should be replaced. If your Senator was among the four that voted for Hagel, well, at least they were consistent and voted their minds. But if your Senator is among the thirteen who voted for cloture thus guaranteeing a confirmation which they then voted against, you may wish to replace the worms you currently have as the next choice could not be worse. Maybe you can find a real Republican Senatorial candidate to run against the worm in the next primary and send a real conservative Constitutionalist Senator to Washington. Would that be too much to ask? My Senator, he was the one who first stated intent to filibuster and the other supported him and is known as Senator No. I am glad you asked.

Beyond the Cusp

February 12, 2013

The Big Three Obama Appointments

Three of the most important nominations a President makes, as the Administrative Branch of the government is primarily responsible for foreign affairs, are Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and Director of the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency). President Obama could have made appointments which would have been uncontroversial, middle of the spectrum, and well versed in their fields and received quick Senate approval with little confrontational debate. But that was not his intent. The President cast cares aside and chose three candidates who were at best problematic.

For Secretary of State he chose Senator Kerry who originally made his name making outlandish and adversarial accusations before Congress demeaning his fellow soldiers with whom he had served side by side with in Viet Nam. He accused them of committing horrific atrocities comparing them with Genghis Kahn and the Mongol hordes. Since being elected to the Senate Kerry had castigated the State Department who served under Republican Presidents and was never really much of a defender of the state on the international stage. Still, of the three Senator Kerry was likely the least controversial and due to his relations with the members of the Senate received an easy confirmation hearing. Senator Kerry becoming Secretary of State was never in doubt and, by comparison with the other two appointees, was the least troubling.

Next is the President’s appointment for Secretary of Defense, former Senator Hagel. Senator Hagel’s hearings have had a grand display of ruffled feathers and looks to be flailing and headed to defeat. His hearings were a relief in many ways, none to Mr. Hagel’s credit. He was unprepared for answers which any competent appointee for Secretary of Defense would have known would be asked. His lack of having even a basic grasp of President Obama’s foreign policy positions was appalling and shocking. His admission after receiving corrections and admonitions from even Senators with whom he had served surprised and shocked even those who initially had supported his appointment. When even Senator McCain, who had been a friend and cosponsored legislation with Senator Hagel, appeared to lose his temper at Hagel’s’ evasions and prevarications was seen as shocking and a telling problem which evidenced the downturn of any possibility for Hagel to be approved. What may have been the final nail in the Hagel appointment coffin came when the senior committee member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, announced he planned to filibuster the appointment should it be brought before the Senate for confirmation. Seldom do we get to witness such a display of animosity shown publicly for a former Senator when brought before the Senate for confirmation. Partial proof of the deference shown by the Senate to former Senator during confirmation hearings was the easy and rapid approval given Senator Kerry just weeks prior when considered for Secretary of State.

The final appointment was the President appointing John Brennan to be the Director of the CIA. Any candidate for such a sensitive position is required to possess many varied and crucial qualifications. One of the most vital is the trust of both the employees of the CIA and the President while being able to display same before the Senate. Another would be a high sense of morality and a solid moral breadth to guide him in a position where temptations to go afield of the straight and narrow are numerous. That is where there may be some difficulty with the Brennan appointment. This was evident with his first appearance before the Senate where the hearings were disrupted repeatedly by demonstrators. What was amazing is that I have to give Code Pink credit for their consistency on this matter. Code Pink had problems with Mr. Brennan when he was instrumental in defending the use of enhanced interrogation techniques. Since then Mr. Brennan has been neck deep in President Obama’s use of drones for targeted assassinations including that of Americans overseas who have been identified of ties to terrorism. This too has troubled Code Pink and their demonstration against him as a President Obama appointee was something not often found in politics in the United States, a consistent and independent sense of morality that is applied without regards to political party. Code Pink was right on target about Mr. Brennan who has demonstrated that he has no internal morality and will simply take his orders and perform whatever he is assigned to without regards to legality or righteousness. He has uncanny ability to find justifications for any actions no matter their actual morality. That combined with Mr. Brennan’s tendency to be a simple yes man makes him problematic at best and a disaster waiting to happen at worst as Director of the CIA. Unfortunately, the Senate is very likely to allow Mr. Brennan to be confirmed as it is rare for the Senate to refuse two senior Presidential appointments so close together, but we can pray.

Beyond the Cusp

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