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Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Conflict-Hungry President Picks His Next Big Fight



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From the first Morning Jolt of the first full week of 2013…

The Hagel Hullabaloo: Conflict-Hungry President Picks His Next Fight

It’s official: “President Obama plans to nominate former senator Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican and Vietnam veteran, to be secretary of defense on Monday, according to a person close to the process and a senior administration official. The White House informed the Hagel camp over the weekend that Obama intends to announce the nomination at the White House on Monday.”

So, how does that confirmation fight look?

Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican freshman from Texas elected with strong backing from the tea party, said on “Fox News Sunday” that it was “very difficult to imagine a circumstance in which I could support (Hagel’s) confirmation.”

“It’s interesting, the president seems bound and determined to proceed down this path despite the fact that Hagel’s record is very, very troubling on the nation of Israel,” Cruz said. “He has not been a friend to Israel. And in my view the United States should stand unshakably with Israel.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, was softer in his tone toward Hagel, saying the former senator from Nebraska would receive a “thorough vetting” just like any other presidential nominee.

Robert Reich: “Wonder why the President is willing to spend his precious political capital getting Chuck Hagel confirmed as Defense Secretary.”

Because ever since he won reelection, he’s eager to pick fights to prove he can win them? Peggy Noonan summarized it this weekend:

I doubt now he has any intention of working with them on big reforms, of battling out a compromise at a conference table, of having long walks and long talks and making offers that are serious, that won’t be changed overnight to something else. The president intends to consistently beat his opponents and leave them looking bad, or, failing that, to lose to them sometimes and then make them look bad. That’s how he does politics.

Why?

Here’s my conjecture: In part it’s because he seems to like the tension. He likes cliffs, which is why it’s always a cliff with him and never a deal. He likes the high-stakes, tottering air of crisis. Maybe it makes him feel his mastery and reminds him how cool he is, unrattled while he rattles others. He can take it. Can they?

 Lindsey Graham seems to concur with that theory:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday expressed dismay at reports President Obama would tap former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) for Secretary of Defense, calling it an “in your face” selection.

“I like Chuck Hagel. He served with distinction in Vietnam as an enlisted man — two Purple Hearts. But quite frankly Chuck Hagel is out of the mainstream of thinking on most issues regarding foreign policy,” said Graham in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“He has long severed his ties with the Republican party. This is an in your face nomination of the president to all of us who are supportive of Israel,” he added. “I don’t know what his management experience is in regards to the Pentagon or global if anyway, so I think it’s an extremely controversial choice.”

Say, John Aravosis, how will gays welcome Hagel’s nomination? “Hagel’s public record on gay rights is abominable… I’m willing to believe that the man has changed in the past two years (though it seems awfully opportune). but I’d like some proof, or at the very least, a convincing explanation. We’re received neither.”

(sigh) …Here we go again.


Tags: Barack Obama , Chuck Hagel , Lindsey Graham , Ted Cruz


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