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Chuck Hagel vs. ‘Advise and Consent’: Know Your Constitutional Duty, Senators

The clause has nothing to do with party. It is a necessary check on Executive Branch power.

by
Rand Simberg

Bio

February 26, 2013 - 8:21 am

The Senate is about to approve perhaps the most inept secretary of Defense in history — at least in prospect — because too many senators believe they are supposed to be deferent to the president regarding cabinet appointees.

Their assigned constitutional role is to “advise and consent” to presidential appointments. This clause has not a thing to do with whether or not a senator should defer to a president of one’s own party, or another; indeed, the wise men who wrote the Constitution made no mention of political parties in the document. Yet somehow, many unfamiliar with the writing of the document imagine that the notion of checks and balances enshrined within applied to checks and balances among political parties.

No. Their goal was not to separate partisans, but to separate key branches of government, which had specific and enumerated and delineated powers. Without getting into all the details of those powers, one of the checks and balances they put into the document required “advise and consent” by the Senate (part of the legislative branch) prior to confirmation of an appointment desired by the executive branch.

To repeat: the idea was not that one party should check the power of another, as the Constitution does not mention parties. It is that one branch (legislative) should check the power of another branch (executive).

The idea was that no branch was to “rubber-stamp” another, though this is the opposite of what many senators appear to believe.

When you hear a senator, a member of the body whose duty is to “advise and consent” on presidential appointments, say:

I don’t believe Chuck Hagel, who is a friend of mine, is qualified to be secretary of Defense. But I do believe that elections have consequences, unfortunately, and the president of the United States was re-elected.

… understand that this senator is disobeying his oath of office and misunderstanding his role. It is not to rubber-stamp the president’s choice, but to (as the words suggest) “advise and consent.” Or not.

Senator Hagel has made it abundantly clear — not just in his blunders in the Senate confirmation hearings, but with his mediocre record in all other engagements in life — that he is unfit for the office of the cabinet member most responsible for the defense of our nation. (I suppose being elected to the Senate could be said to be a major achievement, but such a notion is belied by all the other mediocrities that have attained such a supposedly lofty position.) Note Hagel’s antipathy to our only true ally in the Middle East; his unwillingness to release his speeches containing further evidence of his sympathy for our enemies; our enemies’ endorsement of him; and his general inability to even describe the foreign policy principles (to the degree that they exist at all, other than to reduce America’s influence in the world) of the dysfunctional administration of which he apparently longs to join. It is incumbent on a Senate to understand its constitutional role and to reject this political hairball that the administration coughed up, this political cover for a long-held desire to gut the nation’s defense under the guise of a supposed opposition party member.

The Senate, despite its partisan balance, must at long last recognize its constitutional role of checking the power of the executive branch to impose such an unqualified nominee on the nation.

Sadly, we are long past the point at which the political class prioritizes the Constitution. In their minds, checks and balances are “Republican” versus “Democrat,” or “liberal” versus “conservative,” rather than executive versus legislative versus (ultimately) judicial. Most of the low-information voters who put the current political class into place, and kept them there, don’t understand this either.

The worst secretary of Defense since the late Les Aspin is about to be approved by a Senate ill-informed regarding its constitutional role.

Rand Simberg is a recovering aerospace engineer and a consultant in space commercialization, space tourism and Internet security. He offers occasionally biting commentary about infinity and beyond at his weblog, Transterrestrial Musings.

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All Comments   (17)
All Comments   (17)
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KNOW? your constitutional duty? Bit feeble don't you think. DO YOUR DUTY - the one you're paid to do with your contract of employment.

Elected members of Congress, Judiciary and Executive ALL have "constitutional duty" to which they have each sworn/affirmed oath.

So what. What's an oath, personal or public, worth today with all our Humpty-Dumptys in government? And culture.

As long as employees are not held by the employer to the terms of employment won't they take all they can before folding their tents and vanishing into the night?

Members of Congress "REPRESENT " their constituents OR those who buy their products don't they? Are "Servants" of the householders. The householders in the USA are the citizens, aren't they?

Actually in the USA citizens, "SELF governing via their "representatives" are in theory, principle, AND LAW? - again for what that's worth - the sovereign of the nation. Sovereign as in ultimate authority. OR the buck stops with them.

WHAT is the Sovereign doing to keep its servants honest, law-abiding, and worthy of their "honourable" representation/employment?

Are we to suppose, more's the pity, these members of government in Legislature, Judiciary and Executive in their law and principle dismissing, abusing and insulting contempt for citizens actually DO represent the American citizens?

IF that is the situation, then we must accept that the most politically privileged people on the planet have done what - sold their birthright for a mess of what?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This is just a continuation of Obama using rhetoric to get us to believe in things that are opposite of what it was. Confirmation hearings are not to be rubberstamped because the president won the election (isn't that a prerequisite for the office?) or because he gets to choose his own man, the purpose is as described in this article. Likewise, Obama has convinced much of the nation that reliance on others is superior to the londstanding American belief in self reliance. He got many to believe that it should never be your fault if you can find someone else to blame which is conrary to the old American idea of being responsible for your own actions. Socialism is better because capitalism is broken (not!). The list goes on....
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Likewise, it is NOT in the constitution that one political party can force a super-majority vote in the senate to function in carrying out its constitutional mandates. The constitution also does NOT say that private sector politicized 'special interest groups' shall have any authority to control the business agenda of congress or write legislation or control the agenda of the Executive branches of the government. The constitution also does NOT say that the 'media and special interest groups' have the authroity to 'nationalize' states election of elected federal officials.

Theres lots of things the constitution does not allow for, that the government does for 'mutual political' benefit. Just depends on which political party is in power relative to what side is complaining and about what benefit is being gained.

Bottomline! The floor vote would indicate the constitutional process was followed whether one agrees with the outcome or not! If Hagel does nothing more than 'try' to cleanup the multi-layers of corruption in the military complex and bring our military back into constitutional compliance then he will have proven to be a great SOD.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Senate long gave up it's anonymity as a second branch of Government on both sides, but more so on the Democrat side. Now the Senate just acts in lock-step with whatever the president wants. Detractors who mistakenly point out separation of powers are dealt with swiftly by parliamentary procedure. Likewise the Supreme Court has given up acting as a separate branch, and we are all just waiting for Democrats to get their final sympathetic Judge and then everything the Monarch-in-Chief decrees will immediately be rubber stamped by the faux legislature and courts. Our government will become the ultimate R.I.N.O. Republic in Name Only.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Elections have consequences", is the justification they use. Someone explain to these bozos that they, too, were elected. Sure, you can allow the President a little latitude. He needs people who will execute his policies, but such cannot be people who are grossly incompetent or hostile to the country or simply completely unacceptable to the other Party.

"Yes, Mr. President, you were elected, but so were we. We are willing to give you some slack, but it is not carte clanche. Choose someone at least marginaly qualified, please. SecDef is too important a position to be left to a buffoon."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Marc -- the constitutional confirmation process of the SOD does NOT provide for a super-majority vote as was forced by the GOP for purely politically unrelated motivations aside from qualifications.

Budget question for which answer was criticized -- Not even the SOD of the moment knows what budget they will have to work with even for the remaining 2013 or beyond.

Presidents strategy question for which was criticized -- Actually, Hagel gave the correct and precise answer! The current policy is one of 'containment' for both North Korea and Iran in spite of the note he was handed and voluntarily made a withdrawal staement to the committee. Likewise, the post WWII strategy of communist containment has been long in place and remains the strategy today along with the second component of nation building.

I'm pretty sure everybody is going to find Hagel as one who will do everything he can to bring our military back into constitutional compliance at the same time honoring all our legitimate allies treaties. I'm prettu certain I know where he stands of the use of our military for nation building and if so and he pushes for such political strategic reform he will gain the support of a super-majority of this nations military veterans.

If on the other hand, he's not able to clean up the corruption of the military complex and strive to limit military use for nation building he may as well resign and go home and give the position to a political puppet.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I suspect that the only reason you oppose Hagel is because of his suspected anti-Semitism. Competency is just a ruse to avoid being called a "tool of the Zionist lobby." Rejecting Hagel will not change Obama's anti-Israel policy. He will just appoint someone else who holds the same views. The problem isn't Hagel, it is the man who appointed him.

There is only one valid reason to reject this nomination -- Hagel's failure to disclose who paid him. It is very likely that Hagel has been on the payroll of some of America's enemies. We don't want a SECDEF or any cabinet official whose loyalties can be bought. It is too bad that the Republicans focused on the policy disagreements and his lack of knowledge than on his paymasters. The Republican strategy should have been to focus on this and not his anti-Israel views.

We live in a partisan age. It is far better for Republicans to let Obama appoint gross incompetents like Hagel, Kerry and Lew who will most likely become an embarrassment at some point in the future than someone holding the same views who might competently execute bad policies. With the caveat on full financial disclosure, if were a Senate Republican I would vote yes on the nomination.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I don't understand: why is it right to reject Hagel for his failure to disclose who paid him, but not for his incompetence and his "bad" positions?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
While I do agree that the source of our problem is Obama, and that one reason to oppose Hagel is his probable beholden to our enemies' status, I disagree wholeheartedly with rubber-stamping appointments just to show up Obama's incompetence.

In the first place, that incompetence is already well established. In the second place, he doesn't care what we think of him. In the third place, but by no means the least place, our country has already suffered too much over the course of the last four years from the first term appointments, too many of whom were approved as a group, but all of whom were rubberstamped: Clinton, Napolitano, Geithner, Gates, Panetta, etc. These are people for whom America is just something somebody said, not to be defended, not to be preserved, only to be gutted, and looted, and then held down with an exposed underbelly to our enemies. My rule of thumb has become: if Obama wants it, it is immediately suspect as being bad for the United States, and should be opposed at all costs.

Unfortunately, too few in the Senate have the testicular fortitude, or the moral courage, to choose between the nation and their own self-serving interests.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Obama is going appoint somebody with same views as Hagel no matter what. He is the President and he wants people to execute his policies. If you are suggesting that we should oppose Hagel or any other nominee because we oppose Obama's policies then I think you are being foolish. If that is what you believe then I guess you would have no issues with a Democratic controlled Senate reject a Republican nominee over policy issues.

Well executed bad policies are far more dangerous to the country than anything an incompetent like Hagel or Kerry might do.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If it's not legitimate to reject a Presidential appointment for an execute department because of policy, then what is the use of having Congress vote on these appointments at all? Congress should either exercise its power or allow the President to appoint execute branch personnel without ANY congressional interference. It seems to me that a rubber stamp following weeks of theatrics and confirmation hearings is the worst possible option.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
So you are ok with the Democrats blocking Republican appointments over policy, e.g. you have problem with Democrat's rejection of Robert Bork?

If a rejection would influence policy then perhaps it would be worth while. But it won't with Obama.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I have just seen at Foxnews.com that they voted to bypass any further obstacle. He will be SecDef.

The GOP is losing it.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The GOP already lost. It's America that's "losing" now.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
From Fox:

On the second attempt, the Senate advanced Chuck Hagel's nomination for Defense secretary Tuesday -- after Republicans earlier this month held up the vote in a historic filibuster.

The decision to end debate and tee up a final vote was approved 71-27.

He is now expected to be confirmed, as the final vote only requires a simple majority.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/02/26/hagel-clears-test-vote-in-senate-on-second-try/#ixzz2M1rBd6J4
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Not only inept (how does being a nondescript non-com for a few years qualify him to top command?) but dangerous, for all the reasons the author has described. It surprises me not at all that the quote contained herein came from John "McMealymouth" McCain. What in the world was he thinking?

To paraphrase Sir Thomas More in "A Man for All Seasons", (when asked about a possible successor to Wolsey as Chancellor), McCain should have said, "Me, rather than Hagel", on the question of a competent defense secretary. McCain, for all his waffling, is eminently more qualified, and is, at least, nominally a patriot and a supporter of our allies.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"McCain, for all his waffling, is eminently more qualified, and is, at least, nominally a patriot and a supporter of our allies."

No, he's not! That man has been punishing this country for NOT electing him for over 10 years now.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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