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A Fraternity of Scoundrels

If President Obama traipsed before the cameras in full regalia and announced that he was Napoleon, Republicans would count it a resounding victory if they could but convince him to take that funny hat off while indoors. John McCain would remind us that elections have consequences while Lindsey Graham would demurely disclose that, “I give him great discretion.”

Want proof? Regarding the nomination of the supremely inept Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense (Neville Chamberlain being indisposed at the moment), John McCain concluded, “No, I don’t believe he’s qualified. But I don’t believe that we should hold up his nomination any further, because I think it’s (been) a reasonable amount of time to have questions answered.” Why not nominate Oprah then? It would take even less time to establish her lack of qualification to head the Department of Defense.

hagel_hearing_AP.jpgAssistant Secretary of Retreat Lindsey Graham gave his considered opinion that Hagel is, “…one of the most unqualified, radical choices for Secretary of Defense in a very long time.” And therefore, he concluded as surely as night follows day that, “… at the end of the day, this is the president’s decision. I give him great discretion.” And in giving great discretion, Graham doesn’t give national security a fighting chance. At what point did Presidential discretion compel senatorial acquiescence in the attempt at national suicide?

Once upon a time, when Jimmy Carter nominated a liberal named Abner Mikva for an appeals court position, then-Senator Joe Biden remarked that, “I think that the advice and consent responsibility of the Senate does not permit us to deprive the President of the United States from being able to appoint that person or persons who have a particular point of new unless it can be shown that their temperament does not fit the job.” But Biden’s view of advice and consent is much like his view of the Constitution itself, which is that it is made of Silly Putty and can be molded to fit changing circumstances. So that when it came time to hold forth on the Senate’s duty vis-a-vis Robert Bork, he announced, “And thus the Senate, in exercising its constitutional role of advice and consent, has not only the right in my opinion but the duty to weigh the philosophy of the nominee as it reaches its own independent decision.”

Lindsey Graham’s exploration of Chuck Hagel’s philosophy yielded the following exchange

Now, let’s talk a little bit about statements you’ve made. You’ve explained this a bit. You said, “The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here. I’m not an Israeli senator; I’m a United States senator. This pressure makes us do dumb things at times.” You said “the Jewish lobby” should not have been — that term shouldn’t have been used, it should have been some other term. Name one person, in your opinion, who is intimidated by the Israeli lobby in the United States Senate.

Mr. HAGEL: Well, first –

Sen. GRAHAM: Name one.

Mr. HAGEL: I don’t know.

Sen. GRAHAM: Well, why would you say it?

Mr. HAGEL: I didn’t have in mind a specific person.

Sen. GRAHAM: Do you agree it’s a provocative statement, that I can’t think of a more provocative thing to say about the relationship between the United States and Israel and the Senate or the Congress than what you said? Name one dumb thing we’ve been goaded into doing because of the pressure from the Israeli or Jewish lobby.

Mr. HAGEL: I have already stated that I regret the terminology I used.

Sen. GRAHAM: But you said back then, “It makes us do dumb things.” You can’t name one senator intimidated. Now give me one example of the dumb things that we’re pressured to do up here.

Mr. HAGEL: We were talking in that interview about the Middle East, about positions, about Israel.

Sen. GRAHAM: So give me an example of where we’ve been intimidated by the Israeli Jewish lobby to do something dumb regarding the Mideast, Israel, or anywhere else.

Mr. HAGEL: Well, I can’t give you an example.

Sen. GRAHAM: Thank you. Do you agree with me you shouldn’t have said something like that?

Mr. HAGEL: Yes, I do. I’ve already said that. 

From that exchange, Senator Graham has decided to lend his considerable discretion to the appointment of a nominee whom charity demands that we simply call “unqualified,” rather than, say, a boob. Latitude to qualified nominees is one thing, but latitude to those who have established their incompetence at profound length during painful testimony is pathetically and mind-blowingly dumb. If John McCain, Lindsey Graham, or any other senator finds Chuck Hagel unqualified to lead our armed forces, they have an affirmative duty to stop this disaster before it unfolds with catastrophic consequences. To do any less is to spinelessly subordinate the security of the United States in deference to a fraternity of professional scoundrels.