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

January 7, 2013

Hagel Appointment Not Just a Problem for Israel

The appointment of former Senator Chuck Hagel as United States Secretary of Defense is far more than just an Israeli problem, it will present a problem for the United States and especially the United States Military as well as the balance, security and safety for everywhere that the influence of the United States will no longer be a factor as the United States foreign policy turns inward. Hagel is on record opposing sanctions on Iran and is a firm believer that only through direct negotiations that recognizes and grants Iran the respect and deference they demand can the Iranian nuclear program be prevented from reaching its weapons goals. Hagel refused to sign a Congressional Petition supporting Israel and has insisted that Hamas be recognized as a legitimate and responsible entity and brought into any negotiations concerning Israel and the Palestinians. He has proven credentials to be a member of a group of politicians who have taken the title of realists which, if intents and actions mean anything, would be better described as Arabists whose first and often sole concern is what will favor the oil producing nations, especially those in the Saudi Peninsula. With so much of the world’s attention, tensions, and potential problems currently fomenting in the Middle East and North Africa, especially the most critical threat of Iran becoming a nuclear power, a Hagel appointment as Secretary of Defense would pose more problems than it could solve.

Nobody should be overly surprised at President Obama choosing Chuck Hagel as he presents almost the perfect stealth candidate who shares the vast majority of the President’s views on foreign affairs and paring back the defense department. With the fact that Hagel is a Republican, President Obama can present the Hagel appointment as a bipartisan move making the Republicans in the Senate vote against a fellow Republican which will be used as a bludgeon painting those Republicans who oppose Hagel’s appointment as simply impossible to satisfy and acting in a purely partisan manner even to the point of refusing a Republican appointment. Add that should the Democrats manage to hold discipline on the vote they have enough votes to approve the appointment which would force the republicans to use the filibuster. If some Republicans are willing to vote with the Democrats, a likely possibility, then they would likely have the votes for cloture. A successful cloture vote would be a guarantee of Hagel being confirmed as the next United States Secretary of Defense. This may prove out in the long run to be a very cunning and tactful appointment forcing Republicans with either voting against one from among their own ranks or giving President Obama an able ally at the head of the Department of Defense which will already be facing difficulties with draconian budget cuts.

There are some in Israel who have pointed to John Kerry being the likely candidate for Secretary of State as a possible mitigating factor and a possible balance against Chuck Hagel in any discussions and policy decisions on the Middle East and particularly Israel and the Palestinians. Unfortunately, Kerry would be overpowered as of the three, Kerry, Hagel and President Obama; Kerry has a comparatively passive personality and would easily be bullied and overwhelmed by the President and Hagel. Betting on Kerry as Secretary of State to stand up for Israel is a fool’s gambit which is why the Israelis have one of the most important elections in their short history later this month but that is for an article coming later this week.

In the meantime, the pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC will have a most ticklish situation on their hands; should they lobby long and hard against Hagel or keep a low profile and make their preferences known quietly keeping behind the scenes. It is likely that if AIPAC is seen to be presenting too high a profile on the Hagel appointment and ratification, it might be used by some as a reason for confirming the Hagel appointment. On the other hand, their taking too passive an approach might backfire, especially if J Street, the PAC falsely claiming to be pro-Israel, should come out strongly in favor of Hagel. Any supporters of Israel are going to need to walk a knife’s edge if they hope to be effective and not end up being counterproductive. Politics is rarely simple and never straightforward and the Hagel appointment should be excellent proof of such.

Beyond the Cusp

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