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Hagel Will Be Confirmed, But The Hagel Battle Tells Us Much About The GOP

Hagel Hearing

There’s no word yet on when the Senate Armed Services Committee will be voting on the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense, but it appears quite certain that he will ultimately be confirmed by the Senate:

Washington (CNN) - CNN has learned there are now at least five Republican senators who would oppose a filibuster of former Sen. Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense, all but ensuring the embattled nominee will be confirmed in the coming days.

According to a CNN survey of senators, the five are Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Mike Johanns of Nebraska -who both support Hagel taking over the top post at the Pentagon – and John McCain of Arizona, Richard Burr of North Carolina, and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma – who all oppose Hagel’s nomination but also disagree with blocking it by filibuster.

At least four other Republican senators – Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Dean Heller of Nevada and Roy Blunt of Missouri – have said they are not inclined to back a filibuster but haven’t made a final decision.

While no Republican senator has said definitively he or she will filibuster Hagel, several have suggested they might, including the two senators from Texas, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn who is the second-ranking Senate Republican.

If a filibuster were launched, it would take 60 votes to cut it off. There are 53 Democrats in the Senate plus two independents who regularly vote with them. So the additional five Republicans would provide the votes needed to break a filibuster.

Democratic aides tell CNN they expect no defections from their side.

I’ve seen reports that indicate that Collins and Blunt have been more forceful in their comments about a filibuster, and I doubt that Murkowski will be one who is likely to support taking the extraordinary step of filibustering a Presidential cabinet appointment rather than going to a vote on the merits. To my knowledge, that’s something that’s never happened before and I doubt it’s going to happen this time. At the same time, though, we’re likely to see a higher number of “no” votes than usually seen for a Cabinet nomination, especially one of a former Senator. Daniel Larison estimates about 20 Republicans voting “no,” which I think is likely close to what we’ll see in the end, and makes this observation:

Even if all of the remaining Republicans voted to confirm, that would still mean that nearly half of the Senators from Hagel’s own party are voting the other way. It isn’t surprising when the president’s opposition votes in large numbers against a nominee from the president’s party, but in this case Republicans are going out of their way to repudiate one of their own mostly because he is not enough of a jingoist and saber-rattler. Hagel will almost certainly be confirmed, but along the way Senate Republicans are confirming everyone else’s worst fears about their foreign policy views.

While Hagel’s performance at the hearing was less than ideal to say the least, it remains nonetheless true that the Republican members of the Armed Services Committee walked into that hearing last week already opposed to Hagel and on a mission to either undermine his nomination or, most likely, to use the hearing as an opportunity to score political points with their respective constituent groups. John McCain, for example, used the hearing to re-fight the battles of the Iraq War and the Surge in what one can only be described as a bizarre attempt to burnish his own legacy rather than ask any relevant questions. Senator Ted Cruz used his time to question Hagel based on things he said in the past, but didn’t bother tell his fellow committee members that he misrepresented what Hagel said, not just once, but twice. Moreover, there was more time spent in the hearing talking about Israel than their was talking about Afghanistan, the Drone Wars, the upcoming defense sequestration cuts, issues regarding future force structure, the size of the Navy, or any of the other myriad of issues that the next Secretary of Defense. Of all the questioners, I’ve got to say that the one who seemed to actually ask the most relevant questions was Maine’s Independent, Angus King, who asked Hagel about how he’d approach managing an entity as large as the Department of Defense in an era where we’ll be winding down from yet another war and preparing for different challenges in the future.

In the end, the incoherent Republican opposition to Hagel is yet another symptom of what’s wrong with foreign policy in the Republican Party today. Realism, which has historically played a large role in foreign policy in Republican Administrations going back to Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, and Bush 41, has been replaced with some bizarre version of the neoconservatism and support for preemptive war that was a hallmark of the Bush 43 Administration. Even after eight years in which it was proven that these ideas were an utter failure when put into practice, Republicans continue to hold onto them as if they are gospel, ignoring the realism that used to represent the party’s message and of which Hagel is a failure good representation of its modern form. Add into that the fact that the “War On Terror” has caused an almost paranoid fear of anything Muslim to grip the right, and the fact that it now appears that the only acceptable views on the Middle East are those which involve sycophantic support of the right wing of Israeli politics. Hagel represents views that stand opposed to all of that, and that’s why Republicans are so vehemently opposed to him. In the end, they’d do better to listen to what he has to say, though.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. C. Clavin says:

    In the end, the incoherent Republican opposition to Hagel everything is yet another symptom of what’s wrong with foreign policy in the Republican Party today.

    There…FTFY

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  2. andrew says:

    Enormous straw men are colliding into each other here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  3. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Ah, the Internet. Quite literally it’s Bizarro World. Up is down, day is night, black is white.

    Obama nominates a confused anti-Semite to lead the Defense Department, a man so loopy about foreign policy George McGovern circa ’72 would blush, and the ensuing farce of a nomination hearing demonstrates everything that’s wrong . . . . . . with the GOP.

    Of course the Star Chamber treatment of the likes of Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Wolfowitz, Abraham, Rice, Estrada, Rogers Brown, Gonzales, Kempthorne, Alito, Pace, Mukasey, et al., demonstrated everything that’s wrong . . . . with the GOP. And with George W. Bush, specifically.

    Heads the GOP wins, tails the GOP loses. On the Internet, that is, and of course in newsrooms and on college campuses.

    One of these days the DSM actually should get around to mapping out the causes and symptomatology of Republican Derangement Syndrome. Seriously.

    In any case, Hagel won’t be filibustered. We’ve already become a world laughingstock with this nomination. A filibuster would throw salt on that wound. The best at present for which we can hope is that Hagel gets mugged by reality. Like Obama and Panetta before him.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 38

  4. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Head they lose, tails they lose, that is. Damn dsylexia.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 11

  5. C. Clavin says:

    “…Damn dsylexia…”

    Yeah…that’s your problem…dyslexia…right…

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 1

  6. Mike says:

    Let’s simplify this even more. Hagel backed Obama and not McCain. McCain lost. McCain and his lapdog Graham are getting even. It won’t work.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 0

  7. gVOR08 says:

    This does show that over time, Republicans can evolve. Go back 40 years or so, Republican foreign policy was all about oil and commies. Now it’s all about oil and Likud. I’m thinking it’s the influence of the religious right.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  8. gVOR08 says:

    Hagel struck me as a lot like Romney in the last debate, comfortable that it was in the bag as long as he avoided any big gaffe. Unlike Romney, Hagel was probably right.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Of course the Star Chamber treatment of the likes of Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Wolfowitz, Abraham, Rice, Estrada, Rogers Brown, Gonzales, Kempthorne, Alito, Pace, Mukasey, et al., demonstrated everything that’s wrong….

    With you. You have become totally disconnected from reality, Tsar. Time to get back on your meds.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  10. edmondo says:

    John McCain, for example, used the hearing to re-fight the battles of the Iraq War and the Surge in what one can only be described as a bizarre

    Doesn’t this pretty much describe John McCain’s behavior for most of the last decade? Mental acuity isn’t his strong point. It’s getting embarrassing

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  11. bk says:

    Tsar, your periodic incoherent rants are taking you away from your “clients” who “pay you a lot of money”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  12. Jeremy R says:

    Apparently the committee’s republicans have some sort of vendetta against the Atlantic Council they’re agitating about now:

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/zekejmiller/hagel-tells-lawmakers-he-cant-provide-details-on-speaking-en

    “Hagel is refusing to answer any of the questions or make any effort to get them the answers,” the aide said. “He is basically telling Senators they have no right to know if he has been unduly influenced by foreign governments or foreign agents over the last five years. What is he hiding? I’m told several Senators, including McCain, who have previously expressed opposition to a filibuster said privately yesterday that failure to disclose foreign funding information would change their thinking.”

    “Committee members have specific concerns with regard to foreign contributions to the Atlantic Council by Saad Hariri (or the Hariri family), Dinu Patriciu, Kazakhstan, Bidzina Ivanishvili (his supporters/network) – and the nexus between Chevron’s investments in Kazakhstan and their involvement with Hagel at the Atlantic Council,” the aide added. All of those groups have paid chairs or programs at the foundation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  13. Tony W says:

    It has been suggested before, but I am seriously beginning to think Tsar is a Democratic plant – think Colbert or Swift, working to make the Republicans look looney through impersonation and role playing. Very clever, although if he were a stock I’d short him anyway.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  14. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Tony W:

    No, if that were the case we would have heard about it in our weekly media-academe-internet cabal meetings.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  15. gVOR08 says:

    @Tony W: You remind me of a friend of mine who is convinced the recent “unloaded” gun episodes at gun shows are the work of devilish anti-gun agents provocateurs sneaking thru shows, surreptitiously slipping rounds into the empty chambers of unwatched guns.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  16. Septimius says:

    it remains nonetheless true that the Republican members of the Armed Services Committee walked into that hearing last week already opposed to Hagel and on a mission to either undermine his nomination or, most likely, to use the hearing as an opportunity to score political points with their respective constituent groups.

    So, some Senators used a hearing as an opportunity to score political points? Must be the first time that’s ever happened.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  17. mannning says:

    That was a job interview from which one could reject the aspirant out of hand for incoherence and fumbling. I suppose that suits Obama and crowd, since it means they have more control than usual over the DOD, and can prattle about being bipartisan and all that nonsense.

    It would be nice if this man could redeem himself somehow: having an apparent idiot at the controls of the DOD is most disconcerting. Ye Gods, he was a senator!

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 15

  18. Surreal American says:

    @mannning:

    I suppose that suits Obama and crowd, since it means they have more control than usual over the DOD, and can prattle about being bipartisan and all that nonsense.

    Define “more control than usual”

    It would be nice if this man could redeem himself somehow: having an apparent idiot at the controls of the DOD is most disconcerting. Ye Gods, he was a senator!

    Yes, the idiot who will be at the controls of the DOD is a former GOP senator, but I repeat myself.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  19. Scott says:

    @Jeremy R: Says the anonymous aide who won’t disclose who he or she is. I do think Hagel should disclose or work to overturn the non-disclosure agreements he signed.

    Of course, I also believe that there should be total transparency in donations etc.

    Which a lot of people (including the anonymous aide) would fight against.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  20. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @bk: Yeah, I see your point, but which “clients” is he losing? The ones from the law practice, the oil brokerage and consultation firm, or the human resources consulting? He has so many irons in so many fires…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  21. john personna says:

    I like this:

    In the end, the incoherent Republican opposition to Hagel is yet another symptom of what’s wrong with foreign policy in the Republican Party today. Realism, which has historically played a large role in foreign policy in Republican Administrations going back to Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, and Bush 41, has been replaced with some bizarre version of the neoconservatism and support for preemptive war that was a hallmark of the Bush 43 Administration. Even after eight years in which it was proven that these ideas were an utter failure when put into practice, Republicans continue to hold onto them as if they are gospel, ignoring the realism that used to represent the party’s message and of which Hagel is a failure good representation of its modern form.

    It would be wonderful if RINOs reclaimed some turf, and captured a bit of “real” Republican territory. We’ll see.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  22. john personna says:

    @mannning:

    Ye Gods, he was a senator!

    Yeah so, maybe he knows how to hire good staff and take a long lunch.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  23. andrew says:

    “Ah, the Internet. Quite literally it’s Bizarro World. Up is down, day is night, black is white.”

    Haha. I remember the halcyon days when President Mitt Romeny was blamed for the death of the first Ambassador in 30+ years. Oh the incompetence.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. mannning says:

    @john personna:

    I am sure the the senator has a supporting cast that sees him through in the senate. Whether he can form up a good staff for the Pentagon is quite another matter. We had one DOD leader early on that committed suicide, Forestall. I hope Hagel’s mental strength is high enough to succeed, because we will need an excellent top leader there in the near future. His interview did not support his excellence.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  25. Ken says:

    Here’s what I learned from these hearings:

    1) In terms of foreign policy, the following items are extremely important to Republicans: Israel, Iran, Israel, Iran, showing Iran who’s boss, Israel, Israel, blocking Iran, preempting Iran, Israel, going to war with Iran, Israel, Israel, Iran, stopping Iran, American hegemony over Iran, defeating Iran, Israel, Israel, Iran, Israel, Iran, Iran, Iran, Iran, Iran, Israel, and Iran.

    2) To Republicans, foreign policy issues that are less important than Iran and Israel but still deserving of mention: nothing

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  26. Sandoval says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: Oh well, it’s Doug. Fell out of love with conservative positions and acts like a spurned doxy. He will, granted, very occasionally find something wrong with the actual party in power but he writes for his audience: Balloon-Juice rejects.

    Do you remember what this blog was like before he came here? Back when it was good? Before twitter had a #failaconis hashtag?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. Rick Almeida says:

    @Sandoval:

    Before twitter had a #failaconis hashtag?

    You would do great good to those of us who don’t use Twitter by sharing some tweets tagged that way.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  28. Robert C says:

    Republican Foreign Policy: Kiss. Israel’s. Arse.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0