First, the claws came out for Susan Rice, and by all reports, tomorrow/Tuesday President Obama will nominate Chuck Hagel to be his next Secretary of Defense, and the GOP will go after him with as much venom as they directed towards Ambassador Rice over the mere possibility she might nominated Secretary of State. I personally don’t believe Rice was ever really in contention for the job, but feigned GOP outrage, blaming the UN ambassador for (of all things) failing to provide added security (???) which is not her job… for our embassy in Benghazi prior to an attack that left four dead, virtually guaranteed any nomination would be DOA. But the alternative nominee… Senator John Kerry is receiving vociferous praise from the GOP, for whom they promise would sail through the nomination process. Next up: former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, despite being a Republican that John McCain once called a “close and dear friend”, should the retired Republican senator be nominated, the GOP has already said they plan to oppose his nomination and do everything in their power to stop him from becoming Secretary of Defense. Why? Republicans are all over the map on this one, and I could cite several “stated” reasons, but personally, I believe it is because he’s not a currently sitting Democratic Senator. Just as with the possible nomination of Ambassador Rice, Republicans already have their knives out over the possible nomination of retired Senator Hagel. And I don’t think it is a coincidence. With Democrats clinging to only a five vote majority in the Senate, the GOP sees these cabinet appointments as a backdoor way to swing control of the Senate and nullify President Obama’s second term by opposing ANY nominee that’s not a currently serving Democratic senator.
Now, I don’t think even the GOP believes they can overturn five Democratic Senators to give them a GOP majority (and of course, the President isn’t dumb enough to pilfer enough Senators to swing control of the Senate). But the objective here is “obstruction”, not “control”, and the fewer Bluedog Conserva-Dems they have to convince into voting their way, the fewer Senators they need to swing “split-decisions”.
Another “reason” often cited for opposing Hagel as SecDef is his “(lack of) support for Israel” based on a few choice comments the Right-Wing Pro-Israel lobby has objected to. But John Kerry isn’t exactly the Pro-Isreal lobby’s dream come true either (Kerry… among other things… chose Rep. Keith Elison, a… gasp… Muslim!… to work with him on addressing criticism of Israel.) So why the opposition to Hagel but not Kerry?
Both DailyKOS and Rachel Maddow (ibid) asked the obvious question: “Why do Democratic presidents insist on nominating Republicans as Secretary of Defense, adding false credence that Republicans are better at National Security?” Bill Clinton’s second SoD was Republican William Cohen, President Obama initially retained Bush’s SoD Republican Robert Gates (a move I advocated for because Gates was an early critic of invading Iraq and turned things around as SecDef), and now Obama is considering another Republican SoD to replace retiring Democratic SoD Leon Panetta. KOS & Rachel asked the obvious question: “Why Republicans?” After all, Republican’s don’t appoint Democrats as SoD. But neither wondered why the GOP has run so hot & cold (no ”medium” setting) over potential nominees, in near hysterics over the mere possibility that Rice or Hagel might be nominated, but fawning all over John Kerry… a man they “Swiftboated” into the ground in 2004, yet they now embrace as the perfect choice to represent the United States abroad? Doesn’t that strike anyone else as odd?
With Senator Kerry of Massachusetts out of the way, the GOP can throw a ton of money into getting freshly defeated Scott Brown back into the Senate following a ”special election”. (Current Senate makeup: 55/45 Dem/GOP.) That’s a two-seat swing with just one nomination.
So that’s my theory. President Obama could nominate Karl Rove or Rush Limbaugh to serve in his cabinet, and the GOP would vehemently oppose them. It has nothing to do with the candidate’s competency or positions on the issues. It’s all about Power. Anyone that isn’t a currently sitting Senator has about as much chance of winning GOP support as I have of ending up on the next cover of The Weekly Standard.
(Postscript: I’m trying out different themes over the next few of weeks. You’ll be able to vote for your favorite next month. Let me know what you think in the Comments.)
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