Republicans, smarting after the debacle in the House GOP caucus in the lead-up to the fiscal cliff mini-deal, are looking to notch a win on the scoreboard, while mindful of the politics of holding up presidential prerogative on Cabinet appointees. For foreign policy wonks, it is a pivot point for a debate about the post-Bush doctrine of the Republican party.Thank goodness! For a moment I was worried that a single thing would go by that was not devoted primarily to whether Republicans could screw with Obama just because they felt like it. (On another note, is there a debate about the post-Bush foreign policy doctrine of the Republican Party? One that is actually different from the Bush doctrine, and not just the same thing with the name Bush carefully scrubbed off the bumper?)
Given Hagel’s status as a former senator with no natural constituency in either party, each senator has parochial political concerns to consider in weighing a confirmation vote. Many senators didn’t like Hagel personally, not just politically, two Republican operatives pointed out.The list of none-apostate Republicans can be counted on Steve King's two hands and two feet with a few toes left over, but yes, Obama picked an actual Republican to head the defense department, only to be met with complaints from Republicans that the Republican he chose wasn't Republican enough. That's the state of things.
The White House knows “this is an in-your-face pick,” said Republicans strategist Curt Anderson. “To Republicans, he’s not just a moderate Republican. … It’s that he’s an apostate Republican.”
John Brennan (sigh, again) has his own confirmation problems. No, not all of that stuff he was involved with—silly you. No, it's just that some Republicans aren't going to let any appointment to the post get past them without using it as a hostage taking opportunity, and Lindsey Graham says Brennan shouldn't be confirmed until something something Benghazi conspiracy theory:
“I have not forgotten about the Benghazi debacle and still have many questions about what transpired before, during and after the attack on our consulate,” Graham said. “In that regard, I do not believe we should confirm anyone as director of the CIA until our questions are answered – like who changed Ambassador Susan Rice’s talking points and deleted the references to Al-Qaeda?”"Not directed at Mr. Brennan" is a nice, terse way of saying, straight up, that Mr. Brennan's confirmation or lack thereof will have nothing to do with Mr. Brennan, which, sweet Jesus, may just pass for business as usual among the hostage-takers. It is also a reminder of why filibuster reform really ought to be a thing, this session, because the number of things being blocked due to other things has at this point grown to include all the things, and this is why we can't have nice things.
“My support for a delay in confirmation is not directed at Mr. Brennan, but is an unfortunate, yet necessary action to get information from this administration,” Graham said.
Since my patience for all of government is at an ebb, I will just say, as politely as possible, that the last month has certainly given ample evidence that our great leaders have had no sudden onset of competence. We are back to the same dynamic, in which one of the two political parties is so obsessed with blocking anything the president might possibly like that even the most primitive functions of government (say, paying their bills) can go to hell, if that's what it takes, and the same conspiracy theories jumping from some random J. Alfred Crackpot to Fox News guests to actual congressional hearings, and the same moral poster boys of the Moral Party getting arrested for doing illegal and deeply immoral things, only to have their party standing increased, not decreased, in the aftermath. Business as usual.