There were a couple of nano-moments during the run-up to the Senate Armed Services Committee vote Tuesday on Chuck Hagel's nomination for secretary of defense when it almost appeared one or two Republicans might actually favor him. Alas. When Democratic Chairman Carl Levin polled the members, the vote was strictly party line, 14-11, with Sen. David Vitter away and unable to cast the 12th vote against his fellow Republican, a fellow widely seen in the GOP as a renegade for his semi-dovish foreign policy views and endorsement of Barack Obama.
But most of the 11 at least were respectful in their opposition, taking note of Hagel's combat experience decades ago and his time as one of their colleagues. But, in a rancid McCarthyist display, Sen. Ted Cruz gave everyone a taste of the kind of reptilian behavior we can expect from the tea party-backed junior senator from Texas when he said he had serious concerns about the origin of payments Hagel had accepted for speeches he had made:
“It is at a minimum relevant to know if that $200,000 that he deposited in his bank account came directly from Saudi Arabia, came directly from North Korea.”There ought to be a trapdoor that delivers the purveyors of such remarks directly into a chute that carries them from Capitol Hill out onto the banks of the Potomac.
Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida was livid. He said Cruz had taken things too far:
"I want to put on the record that this senator feels like that Sen. Cruz has gone over the line. He basically has impugned the patriotism of the nominee—in your conclusions, which you are entitled to come to, about him, in essence, being cozy with Iran."But Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, one of Hagel's main GOP critics, defended Cruz, noting that those who had suggested the nominee was “cozy” with terrorist states had a point in their favor since Iran had expressed support for Hagel's nomination. “He’s endorsed by them. You can’t get any cozier than that.”
It was the turn of Sen. Claire McCaskill, the Missouri Democrat, to become livid: “Senator Inhofe, be careful. What if some horrible organization said tomorrow that you were the best guy that they knew?”
Actually, there is a horrible organization that might very well call Inhofe the best guy they know. It's Koch Industries, the petrochemical giant whose profits help David and Charles Koch buy puppet politicians to support their lies claiming climate change is a liberal scam.
Suggesting that a nominee for the secretary of defense post might be a traitor, beholden to a dictator such as Kim Jong-un or to the Iranian mullahs, should be grounds for censure or at least a call for a public apology, not a mere scolding. But, ironically, the Senate's famous etiquette of collegiality protects the likes of Inhofe and Cruz, and most committee members will no doubt be all smiles in their interactions with the two men at their next hearings.