I disagree with the repeated insistence of Democratic presidents to nominate Republicans to the post, particularly given the GOP's terrible record on defense matters. So, I feel no compulsion to defend the White House on this matter. On the other hand, a prerogative of winning a presidential election should be the right to pick their administration officials. Judicial nominations are different given the lifetime tenure, but if a president can't pick his or her own advisers, that's a serious problem.
In other words, Obama can choose whoever he wants, but I won't expend an iota of energy defending Hagel other than to note that if Republicans really wanted to pick the secretary of defense, they should've won the election last November.
What this all means is that I don't care about the outcome of this battle, so I can truly view it dispassionately, and here's why I find it awesome:
- Republicans have spent weeks trashing Chuck Hagel as stupid, arrogant, non-responsive, unprepared, and inarticulate. And you know what? They're right! The last round of hearings were painful to watch. But really, how could Hagel not be all those things? He is a conservative Republican. Those are inherent traits in that breed. It's not as if Hagel is leading the way refusing to reveal more detailed personal finances.
So yes, I'm having fun Republicans trash a Republican. In fact, I don't think Republican on Republican violence will ever get old with me.
- We get to say "I told you so" to Harry Reid and whatever Democrats were left who refused to sign on to genuine filibuster reform. Republicans can make all the promises in the world that they'll behave, but they won't. Not only are they assholes, but they're increasingly beholden to the Rand Paul/Ted Cruz crazy wing of their party who don't care about deals to behave nicer.
The only way to prevent such abuse of the system is to reform the system, require up-or-down votes on all nominations, including judicial. Because if a Democratic president can't get a conservative Republican nominated for the GOP's favorite Department, how do you expect Obama and Senate Democrats to confirm a Supreme Court justice to replace a theoretical Antonin Scalia retirement? (Sign the petition urging Reid to re-open filibuster reform.)
- It's a win-win no matter what happens. If Hagel gets confirmed (which is still most likely), we have our Nixon-in-China opportunity to enact serious Pentagon reform. Who better to slash the defense budget than a conservative Republican? I actually have high hopes for a Hagel Pentagon. And if he doesn't get confirmed, we might get a legitimate Democrat replacement nomination, perhaps even Michele Flournoy, who would be the first woman to ever hold the position.
I still find it weird that Obama chose to expend his political capital over Hagel instead of Susan Rice, but whatever. It's more fun watching this spectacle from the sidelines anyways.1:28 PM PT (Kaili Joy Gray):