President Barack Obama
is expected to nominated former Sen. Chuck Hagel to become the next US Defense Secretary. Hagel is a decorated military veteran, but he comes to the nomination with little if any of the typical support coalition that major nominees enjoy. His nomination manages to offend a wide range of people across the political and national security spectrum.
- Hagel opposed the surge that led to victory in Iraq, calling it “the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam.” The surge worked, but Hagel’s opposition to it helped him cement relationships with two others who opposed it: Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Joe Biden. Opposing the surge calls Hagel’s military judgement into question.
- Hagel’s views on Israel will be problematic. He has urged Israel to engage in direct talks with Hamas, and he has accused the “Jewish lobby” of “intimidating” officials in Washington.
- At the same time, Hagel has tended to be soft on Iran, voting against sanctions and urging direct talks between the US and the Islamic state’s mullahcracy.
- At the same time, Hagel has run into trouble on the left for a past statement on James Hormel, who Hagel called “aggressively gay” when Hormel was nominated to be US ambassador to Luxembourg.
- These positions will stir up comment and opposition from a range of players, from Abraham Foxman to the Human Rights Campaign.
If Obama thinks nominating this particular Republican will stir up a bipartisan coalition supporting it, he may be nuts. The fight over Hagel’s nomination may cost Obama as many as 10 Democratic senators, along with vocal opposition from several Republican senators likely including Cruz and Cornyn of Texas, Graham of South Carolina, McCain of Arizona and several others. The nomination seems doomed. Why Hagel? What does he bring to our national defense that some other nominee does not, but without the baggage that Hagel brings? Why pick the fight? Is this nomination another of Obama’s “I won” moments?
On spending, Barack Obama seems not only to have no intention of cutting back on what his government spends, he apparently does not even believe that there is a problem at all. The Wall Street Journal reports that House Speaker John Boehner had the president drop a sanity-defying line on him during the recent standoff:
“At one point several weeks ago,” Mr. Boehner says, “the president said to me, ‘We don’t have a spending problem.’ “
Suppose that Barack Obama actually believes this. Why say it to the man he was negotiating with, who clearly believes that we do have a spending problem. Boehner has said so publicly several times. Just from a negotiating point of view, Obama’s statement makes little sense. Then, there are the facts. The United States is currently running annual deficits north of $1 trillion per year. We are more than $16 trillion in debt, and on track to be over $22 trillion and maybe $26 trillion in debt by the time Obama leaves office. Entitlement spending is on pace to devour America whole if it is not reined in. How can any sane person not believe that we have a spending problem? Our government has not even had a real budget in over three years. Obama reportedly wants to hit our struggling economy with even more taxes, which would make him easily the most aggressive tax hiker in American history. Such a push is likely to drive major donors away from the Democratic party, and may split Democrats in the House and Senate, while driving unemployment and misery even higher.
And then, there’s gun control. Obama is now clearly exploiting the Newtown, CT tragedy to build pressure in favor of new gun control legislation. There is virtually no chance of such legislation passing through the House if it does anything more than update and upgrade the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The Senate looks unlikely to pass anything substantive too — one of his own Democrats is calling Obama’s position on gun control “extreme.” As I’ve reported, all the talk of new gun control laws is doing is driving up gun sales and gun range activity. Does Obama not see that any new national gun laws will run into strong opposition while driving up demand for the very thing he wants to curb if not do away with? Does he not realizing that the main thing he is achieving is convincing millions of Americans to arm themselves?
A SecDef with no real constituency on the left or the right, an inattention to our spending problem that can fairly be called delusional, and a position on gun control that is helping create historic sales of firearms: Obama’s recent choices seem to be not just counterproductive, but intentionally provocative to the point of being insane.