Friday, March 1, 2013

The Case for Qualifications

SECDEF Chuck Hagel
Courtesy: DOD
The recent political dust-up over the nomination of former senator Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) for Secretary of Defense, and the ongoing hold-up over the nomination of John Brennan for Director of the CIA, is just another chapter in the march towards further polarization and dysfunction that our government is hell-bent on perfecting.

In a time when we are a nation at war holding up the incoming SECDEF for political purposes is one of the most inappropriate, irresponsible and selfish things the Republican senate could do.  Not only was it unprecedented for a SECDEF to be essentially filibustered, but the reasons for obstructing his appointment left me wondering what the hell is really going on in Washington.

So he said some things that he wish he wouldn't have.  I'll cover a few examples below, but before I do: a few things about that:
  • Who here is surprised that a politician said something they shouldn't have?
  • Who cares, anyways?  Is that the new standard for getting a job in Washington?  
"The political reality is that... the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here.... I've always argued against some of the dumb things they do, because I don't think it's in the interest of Israel.... I'm not an Israeli senator. I'm a United States senator. I support Israel, but my first interest is, I take an oath of office to the Constitution of the United States, not to a president, not to a party, not to Israel." 

 Big deal.  Ask yourself these questions:
  • Doesn't our government do stupid things already?  - Most would say yes.
  • Does it matter which lobby does it?  - This is not fight club, it's OK to talk about it.  
  • Is our government kind of creepy with this whole pro-Israel obsession? - Maybe just a little.  

Seriously, when this president says something that is even remotely perceived as potentially saying anything that the Israeli government might not like: what happens?  I'll tell you: people start losing their minds.  Look at the entirety of the quote.  He's saying he's a US senator, not any other country's senator.  He's also saying he's pro-Israel at the same time.  I've never seen someone being so pro-American get criticized like he did.  It's almost as if not supporting anything the Israeli government does, or being a blind pro-Israel politician, is a mark of death in the US.  And it is.  

Why is that, anyways?  Does the Israeli government have a hand in their situation as it is today?  Does the government make things worse when they continue to build settlements?  Do they have any share of responsibility for the mess that the whole world has to deal with?  Yes, they do.  They are not completely at fault, but they are also not without blame.  So forgive me if it seems a little strange that all we hear about is how Israel is only defending itself and Palestine is chock full of terrorists.  

Spoiler alert: I think the answer lies in the middle.
The plan to revive the Iraq War by sending in a "surge" of 30,000 troops (and instituting a counterinsurgency strategy) is "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it's carried out. I will resist it."

Guess what?  At the time, so did I.  And I was deploying when the war started.*

In the absence of just pulling out of Iraq at that time, the so-called "Surge" worked.  It wasn't perfect, but it got our service members out of there, so it looks like it was the right thing to do.  I was wrong.  Chuck Hagel was wrong.  It's not that big of a deal.  And being wrong doesn't disqualify you from being SECDEF.

He's not enemy number one because he thought that the loss of life that we had sustained was not worth the misguided war in Iraq.  He's a bad guy because risking more lives was not the answer in his view?  That seems to have been a pretty reasonable thought, especially at the time.  This guy has two Purple Hearts from Vietnam.  He was an enlisted man.  He saw combat.  In Vietnam.  Don't blame me for deferring to someone that has seen things that even I hadn't.  

The man was, and is, qualified.  You can also read his official DOD bio.
  • Chairman of the Atlantic Council and the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration Advisory Committee
  • Co-chairman of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board
  • Member of the Defense Policy Board
  • U.S. senator, 1997-2009; 
  • President, McCarthy & Co., an investment banking firm based in Omaha, Neb., 1992-1996
  • President and chief executive officer of the Private Sector Council, a nonprofit business organization in Washington, D.C., 1990-1992
  • Co-founder, director and executive vice president of Vanguard Cellular Systems Inc.
  • Chairman of Communications Corporation International LTD, 1985-1987
  • Co-founder, director and president of Collins, Hagel & Clarke Inc., an international consulting, marketing and investment company involved in cellular telecommunications, 1982-1985
  • Deputy administrator, U.S. Veterans Administration, 1981-1982; 
  • Army, including service in Vietnam, 1967-1968.
It's time to cut the crap in Washington and start working on things that matter.  I cringe to imagine how much it would be to add up all of the federal dollars, our tax dollars, that paid for all of the salaries, benefits and other resources that went into this witch hunt.  I bet we could save a whole lot of money in Congress alone each if they used their time to do their jobs.  It feels like they get paid to do nothing.  

By the way, if you're wondering, that number is estimated to be about $6 billion per year.  

The man was, and is, qualified.  Let him do his job.  

Apparently, you're qualified, too.  So Congress, do yours.  


  1. Agree with you across the board on Hagel--obviously qualified and someone who has a track record of putting the nation's benefit before party loyalty.

    Saw some interesting commentary from Josh Marshall and Peter Beinart suggesting that, in addition to Israel, the real reason for the opposition to Hagel was because he publicly opposed the neoconservative foreign policy approach.

    1. Thanks for those links, I appreciate that. You have some good stuff on your blog, I enjoy reading over it. I'll check out those links in a bit.


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