The Haggle over Hagel

What to talk about next … the GOP, such as it is, provides so much for us to think about. Already the leadership in Congress has — just since New Year’s Eve — joyfully threatened to hold the world’s economy hostage with the debt ceiling … and then started walking back from the brink of that insanity.

That’s funny. If you saw and heard Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell before this past weekend (my birthday weekend by coincidence) they were crowing about the leverage they had with the debt ceiling. “The president may have won on that fiscal cliff whatchamajiggy, but gosh darn it, we have the upper hand with the debt ceiling!”

Too much talk. Someone give them a pen.
Boehner and McConnell talk too much. Someone give them a pen.

If the president didn’t bend to their will with budget cuts then by golly they were going to hold up raising the debt ceiling, causing the U.S. to default on its debts, once again and otherwise screwing with the world’s economy. Boehner even said he would not negotiate in private with the president — there you go Teabaggers, the Speaker is on your side.

All while President Obama was promising he would not negotiate with the full faith and credit of the United States. Well, come the Sunday talk shows and Mitch McConnell, when pressed by David Gregory on Meet the Press, couldn’t and wouldn’t stand behind his threat to not allow the debt ceiling to be raised. Ergo, John Boehner would not and could not stand behind his threat to do the same.

Even former Speaker and presidential hopeful New Gingrich detailed the humiliation that the GOP would endure if Boehner and McConnell tried to carry through on their bluff to hold up raising the debt ceiling. Gingrich strongly suggested they just pass the debt ceiling now and save themselves the embarrassment. But no one really listens to New Gingrich, even when he makes sense. And I’ll be honest: I like his idea of going back to the moon and setting up a permanent colony.

What can I say? Arthur C. Clarke was a big influence.

But the debt ceiling, eh, we won’t hit the D-hour on that until St. Valentine’s Day, so it ain’t the top story at the moment. What’s got South Carolina Neocon Senator Lindsey Graham’s undies in a bunch? Again?

Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense — has a nice ring to it. Right wing that is. He’s got all the anti-abortion credentials, as if that would have any bearing on his job as chief civilian in the Department of Defense. It doesn’t really, but you know all good Republicans have this litmus test thing about the topic. Anyway, on the social issues he’s good to go — if you’re a right wing-type person.

Chuck Hagel pictured here during the Vietnam War. A war hero sparking lots of controversy on Capital Hill.
Chuck Hagel earned two Purple Hearts during the Vietnam War but faces political fire.

The guy is a war hero; a legitimate war hero: two purple hearts with several other combat-related commendations. And he still has shrapnel in his chest. He served in the Army — eh — during Vietnam and after that he used his G.I. Bill to get an education and become a respected business leader and politician.

  • For the record: I’m OK with the U.S. Army. This is just an inter-service rivalry thing. Sit us down together for lunch and we’ll talk shit about each other’s branch of service all afternoon, but when it gets real we all wore the uniform.

You’d think that if super liberal Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts is going to sail through the nomination/confirmation process, as Neocon Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina claims, then it’s a no-brainer that former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel would have the GOP sailing him through the confirmation hearing with nary a sneeze.

“Thank you for your service Chuck! You’ll make a great Secretary of Defense. Oh by the way, I hear you got some nice steelheads the last time you fished Snake River!”

Who doesn't like a war hero?
Who doesn’t like a war hero?

Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is the Republican many Democrats openly opined, “I wish he was on our team.”

Especially when Hagel reversed his position on Bush’s war in Iraq and called it a mistake and lobbied his fellow senators to stop the surge. From 2005 forward, Hagel was one of the most vocal critics of the Bush Administration’s policy in Iraq. He took a lot of heat from his party for it and many called him unpatriotic for questioning his president. Hagel’s response: “I took an oath of office to the Constitution, I didn’t take an oath of office to my party or my president.”

Man, what peace-loving liberal Democrat wouldn’t swoon over a Republican like Chuck Hagel? Here’s this hard core Republican that voted for the 2002 Iraq Resolution (you know, the one that authorized the war) and voted for every defense authorization bill to fund that war — the guy’s a legitimate war hero Republican. What upstanding GOP Senator would not vote for Chuck Hagel?

Former U.S. Ambassador James Hormel still waiting for a heart-felt apology from Hagel.
Former U.S. Ambassador James Hormel still waiting for a heart-felt apology from Hagel.

Well, actually quite a few Republicans and Democrats who, at least at this time, oppose Chuck Hagel’s nomination. For them damn lefty loon Democrats he said some insensitive things about an openly gay man, James Hormel, who was being considered for the post of U.S. Ambassador in Luxembourg.

Hagel said Hormel was “aggressively” gay. Well, what the heck did that mean? Did Hormel walk around yelling at people, “I’m gay! Kneel down and kiss my rainbow ring!”

That’s not likely. Hormel seemed like a pretty levelheaded guy and besides, a rainbow ring? A bad fashion choice for anyone of any gender or sexual orientation. After Hormel failed to make it to a vote in the Senate, President Clinton made him a recess appointment, which really pissed off Senate Republicans who vowed to stall all of Clinton’s appointments if he did that Recess appointment thing again.

  • Of course many of those same Republicans were OK with the recess appointments of Clinton’s successor, George W. Bush.

Aw man … Chuck Hagel is a homophobe of the first order; in other words, your typical Republican. There you go. Well, 14 years after making those remarks Hagel apologized for them, saying he had grown as a person and became a supporter of gay rights and equality. You know, after it became known President Obama was considering Hagel to be the Secretary of Defense. It just begs the question: is Chuck Hagel being sincere with his apology?

What did you expect  Barney Frank to do?
What did you expect Barney Frank to do?

Former Massachusetts liberal and gay activist Barney Frank was hotly opposed to Hagel’s nomination and said Hagel’s remarks were not an aberration, after citing the Nebraskan’s voting record on gay-related issues.

And the Log Cabin Republicans came out and actually bought newspaper ads opposing Hagel. The Log Cabin Republicans are the gay group inside the GOP. Talk about fish out of water. It’s their party that advocates for bans on same-sex marriage and all sorts of anti-gay legislation.

It isn’t the gay issue that’s getting the most heat from the right. Hell, most of the GOP agrees with Hagel’s past views on gays and whatnot. The GOP, led by Lindsey Graham has been so vocal in its opposition to Hagel, even Barney Frank changed his position on Hagel as Secretary of Defense. Frank said, “With the attack coming out of the right, I hope he gets confirmed.”

Ever the partisan, that Barney Frank.

Here’s what the GOP says are their reasons for opposing Hagel. He’s anti-Israel. Actually he isn’t, but while he was a senator Hagel said he would not sign on to legislation written by pro-Israel lobbies, in particular a bill that would press the U.N. to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization. Hagel said, “I’m a United States senator. I’m not an Israeli senator.” So obviously anti-Semitic.

So Chuck Hagel gets his nose out of joint when lobbyists try to push him to do their bidding. Did you know there is, officially, an Emergency Committee for Israel? I didn’t until this morning, but they bought the “” and now use it to lobby against the former senator.

Texas Teabagger Ted Cruz probably sees a presidential run by coming out strong against Hagel.
Texas Teabagger Ted Cruz probably sees a presidential run with his Hagel hate speech. Good luck with that, Teddy.

Chuck Hagel is soft on our enemies, according to Teabagger Congressman Ted Cruz of Texas. A guy with shrapnel in his chest from a war injury is soft on our enemies … this from a guy who never wore the uniform. That’s rich.

Hagel opposes unilateral sanctions against Iran and Syria. Apparently that makes him soft. Hagel has and does support multilateral sanctions, preferring international cooperation to going it alone, which Hagel believes isolates the U.S.

Hagel opposes going to war in Iran, unilaterally and otherwise. He says that going to war with Iran will require sending more than 100,000 troops into battle for years, sorta like what happened in Iraq. The Neocons hate that about Hagel. He isn’t a warmonger.

But what’s the real reason the GOP is jumping on the “I HATE HAGEL” bandwagon? When, in 2005, Hagel reversed his position on Iraq, he turned against his president and his party. Hagel did that mavericky thing and the GOP still resents it. You may recall, back in the day Republicans didn’t buck their party system. When Republican President George W. Bush said, “JUMP!” Congressional Republicans, who controlled both houses of Congress, asked, “How high and when do you want us to come down?”

That’s how they took a 250 billion dollar budget surplus and turned it into an 11 trillion dollar deficit. And started the war in Iraq, which Hagel eventually came to regard as a mistake.

So we have Lindsey Graham claiming Chuck Hagel is far outside the mainstream of America and even more liberal than President Obama. That crazy Lindsey! What a kidder! But he’s got his Teabaggers and fellow Neocons lined up behind him.

The thing is, as this is being typed, support for blocking Hagel’s confirmation is beginning to wane. Yeah, the battle was engaged, for a few days, but now reality is beginning to sink in to all those opposed to Hagel becoming the Secretary of Defense. Hagel is going to be confirmed. No one looking at this realistically doubts this, barring we learn Hagel has a secret lover/biographer fall out of the digital closet or some scandal of that stature.

Hagel is going to get confirmed. Get over it, Lindsey Graham.
Hagel is going to get confirmed. Get over it, Lindsey Graham. Let’s move on.

To be sure, Hagel will face some tough questioning from both Democrats and Republicans when he appears before the Senate Confirmation hearings, but he’ll be confirmed and the GOP, including that crazy Graham, knows it.

And the bitch of it is, for the Grand Old Party, is that they can’t publicly admonish Hagel for what they consider his greatest sin: disloyalty to the party.

Americans like mavericky politicians from any party. Former Wisconsin Democratic Senator William Proxmire could be a real pain in the ass to Democratic leadership, but people loved him for his non-partisan Golden Fleece Awards. I got to meet Senator Proxmire once back in the 1970’s, thanks to my mother’s involvement with the Democratic Party. I got the impression he was quite a hawkish guy despite his attacks on the Pentagon and NASA for what he considered wasteful spending.

  • This is where I take issue with Proxmire: he stopped a scientific study being done on a brothel in Peru and another detailing the measurements of airline stewardesses, with specific focus on the derrieres of the flight attendants. We could have learned a lot from that brothel and the various configurations of successful flight attendants.

Back to this Hagel thing: any further histrionics will be just for show, like the GOP leadership’s headline grabbing melodrama over the fiscal speedbump/molehill/anthill/curb/crack/slope/slide/interruptus/cliff thing and the coming debate over raising the debt ceiling.

The president will get Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, Senator John Kerry will become the Secretary of State, Jack Lew will become the Secretary of the Treasury and John Brennan will be confirmed as the new Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Democrats as well as Republicans have expressed opposition to all of them, if for no other reason than all four are old White men, but that won’t get in the way of their confirmations and neither will any of the other objections. It’s all political theater and now that it’s clear the public isn’t paying much attention, the actors are taking their exit cues.

Which is my cue to end this. Maybe I can restart that study into the fine, fine derrieres of the women in Peruvian brothels. Anyone know how to write grant proposals?