Monday, January 7, 2013

A 2nd Term With Nothing to Lose?: President Obama Serves Republicans a Dose of their Own Medicine



"This is an in-your-face nomination by the President to all of us who are supportive of Israel. I don't know what his management experience is regarding the Pentagon -- little, if any -- so I think it's an incredibly controversial choice." - US Senator, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina (R)

Ladies and Gentleman get ready for a fun ride. Over the next four years, I think we are going to see another side to President Obama. A take no prisoners middle finger in the air, kind of Presidency. Probably the Presidency that everyone wanted and expected to see during his first 4-years, but obviously couldn't because the President didn't have the political capital to exercise such prudence against his adversaries - republicans in congress. 


Over the weekend we learned that President Obama intends to make to crucial appointments this week; Secretary of Defense and Head of the CIA. His first nominee has both Republicans and Democrats scrambling with their undergarments in a bunch. Chuck Hagel is set to be nominated by President Obama to Secretary of Defense, a post currently held by Leon Panetta. I don't know anything about Chuck Hagel except that he is a former republican US Senator from the State of Nebraska and a highly decorated war veteran. However,If I were to solely base my thoughts on him from what I've read across the various news sites, and the panic attack that Lindsey Graham of South Carolina had above, I think I might like Chuck. 


So who is Chuck Hagel and why the hell would President Obama nominate him to such a prestigious and consequential post? Let's be honest, there are some serious issues approaching the pentagon this year and years to come. We have Congress not doing their job, so there is an impending sequestration to resolve, the war in Afghanistan is supposed to come to an end in 2014, and some serious changes need to be applied to end the waste within the Pentagon at the hands of its internal leaders and the US Congress. Hagel could make decisions that impact us for decades to come. Is Hagel the right person to handle all of this?

To give us better context into Hagel's military views, I decided to take a look at his time in the Senate and his voting record on a few military items. Senator Hagel served in the US Senate for two terms from 1997 - 2009. During his time he served on The Committee on Committee on Foreign Relations, Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Committee on Rules and Administration. Most importantly will be his time served on the Committee on Foreign Relations. 


According to Hagel's Wikipedia page he is considered a traditional republican. Hagel voted in favor of the Patriot Act , the Bush tax cuts and the Iraq war. However the most intriguing and tell tale sign of what we could possibly expect from him as Secretary of Defense comes from his votes on the Military Commissions Act of 2006. If you are unfamiliar with the MCA, it was President Bush and the US Congress's answer to the Supreme Court of the United States for their ruling on Hamdan v. Rumsfield - that answer was a middle finger using both hands. In a 5-3 decision, the Supreme Court basically said that President Bush did not have the power as he thought he did, to setup military commissions to try GITMO detainees. The Supreme Court even went as far as to say (all on record and more confusing to me as to why GWB is not in JAIL) that the Bush Administration had violated the the Uniform Code of Military Justice and Geneva Conventions. Guess who voted in favor of allowing the Bush Administration to continue their pissing match on the US Constitution  Ding, Ding, Ding.....you guessed right, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. 


However, that's not even the worse part. The most startling thing about Hagel's vote on the MCA was his opposition to every single amendment proposed, that would have forced congress to reevaluate the circumstances and adjust the laws. Hagel voted no on all. Those amendments were crucial and would have at least given Hagel some sort of pass for voting on the MCA. The amendments also would have done to two things to ease the minds and hearts of the American People:

  1. Acknowledge that the Military Commissions Act was not sought to be a permanent fixture, but a solution to deal with our issues temporarily.  
  2. Let us know that President Bush, his administration and the Republican Party anticipated our present day post- Osama Bin Laden world. 
To say that the issues should not be revisited or even looked at by Congress over time, just rubs me the wrong way. Yes, I do understand that this was some time ago and Hagel has since claimed to have apparently grown a conscience, and in his final years in the Senate, began to question and part ways with his party. However, what does Hagel think of the George Bush's eight years in power? Does he have any regrets on his vote for the MCA? Will he have Israel's best interest at heart? Does he still believe that the war in Afghanistan should come to an end? Will he really lay the gauntlet down and finally makes the necessary cuts to the defense budget? Apparently, Hagel has an issue with Gay Americans. Does this mean he has an issue with them serving in the military? I need to know all of these things and look forward to Hagel's confirmation hearings. 


What are your thoughts on Hagel's nomination....

1) Is this a genuine attempt by President Obama to bridge the bi-partisan gap, by showing the Republicans that he can work with one of their own within his administration?

2) If not Hagel, then who should President Obama have nominated to Secretary of Defense?

3) Will Republicans in the Senate ask the sticky questions of Hagel, even if it exposes their own dirty laundry?

4) Do you know anything about Hagel that makes you believe that he is the right person for the job?


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