Give Hagel A Job, But Not Secretary Of Defense

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It wouldn’t be a great surprise if late next week, after snagging a couple consecutive nights of sleep, President-Elect Barack Obama were to hold a press conference at which he announced his choice for what could arguably be the most important pick in his Cabinet: Secretary of Defense. It would be a surprise if Obama hasn’t already, in his head, chosen who that will be. It would be no surprise to anybody if that person turned out to be Chuck Hagel, Republican Senator from Nebraska, a politician to whom "maverick" actually applies when it comes to foreign policy. A choice that many progressives – a word which now seems to encompass a spectrum from certain brands of socialists all the way to certain brands of libertarians – would cheer. Not me. The next Secretary of Defense should be a Democrat.

Not just any Democrat. Some, like Richard Holbrooke, for instance, are not acceptable.

Barack Obama’s promise of bipartisanship has a welcome sound to it. His well-known respect for the ideas in Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book of how Abraham Lincoln brought people into his Cabinet who had opposed him in his own newly invented party and some Democrats as well. As in Lincoln’s time, the nation is deeply in crisis, or rather crises, a flood of domestic, international and atmospheric problems with as yet no certain fixes. Bipartisanship is crucial under the circumstances.

For quite some time, however, the Republicans have become ever more enthralled to that wing of the party that is ever more rightist economically, culturally and in foreign policy. For years, Republican bipartisanship has meant scorched-earth politics when in the congressional majority and controlling the White House and blackmail, humiliation, non-cooperation, non-communication and obstruction when not in control. For all but a few Republicans, true bipartisanship on the major matters of the day is adopted as a very last resort, demanded only upon the failure of all their efforts at pulverizing, diluting or undermining even the most mild progressive Democratic policies and initiatives.

Because, nice as bipartisanship sounds, underlying everything is political clout. In the case of national defense, the majority of Americans have for decades looked upon Democrats as weak and unreliable protectors of our country’s security. Even many Democrats agree with this assessment. Thus, this has been the array of Secretaries of Defense since Dwight D. Eisenhower was in the White House:

Charles E. Wilson - Republican (1953-57)

Neil H. McElroy - Republican (1953-59)

Thomas S. Gates - Republican (1959-61)

Robert S. McNamara - Republican (1961-1968)

Clark M. Clifford -

Democrat (1968-1969)

Melvin R. Laird - Republican (1969-1973)

Elliot L. Richardson - Republican (1973)

James R. Schlesinger - Republican (1973-1975)

Donald H. Rumsfeld - Republican (1975-1977)

Harold Brown -

Democrat (1977-1981)

Caspar W. Weinberger - Republican (1981-1987)

Frank C. Carlucci - Republican (1987-1989)

Richard B. Cheney - Republican (1989-1993)

Les Aspin -

Democrat (1993-1994)

William J. Perry -

Democrat (1994-1997)

William S. Cohen - Republican (1997-2001)

Donald H. Rumsfeld - Republican (2001-2006)

Robert Gates - Republican (2006-Present)

You will note that Republican Presidents don’t appoint Democrats to be Secretary of Defense. But Democratic Presidents choose Republicans for the post more often than they choose members of their own party. Could you remind me again of how well that Bob McNamara thing worked out? If Barack Obama chooses Chuck Hagel, it would mean that Republicans would have held that Cabinet slot for nearly 52 of the 60 years from 1953-2013. For a Democratic President vowing major change, and heading for what could be a powerful mandate in Congress, what does it say if this key post goes to someone from the party to whom it has traditionally gone?

Would it indicate that Democrats believe themselves to be too weak for the job? And what do we mean by "weak"? If we don't believe Democrats are strong enough to put one of our own in such a key job, how can we expect non-Democrats to believe it?

As Ilan Goldenberg wrote in The New Republic in March:

This is not a strictly political problem; it has a profound effect on policy. When one party has the monopoly on security, bad decisions tend to get made. From the Iraq War vote, to the Patriot Act, to FISA, to military tribunals, Republicans are too often able to bully Democrats into bad national security votes. With greater confidence and higher approval ratings on security comes a greater willingness to stand up and fight back on these bad ideas.

If they win in November, Democrats will finally have an opportunity to turn this dynamic around. The 2006 elections represented a major milestone, as Democrats were able to take back the House and the Senate, based in large part on their opposition to the Iraq War. But this victory spoke more to the public's loss of confidence in the Republicans' ability to lead on foreign policy than it did to the public's inherent confidence in the Democrats' ability to lead. The question facing Democrats today is: Was 2006 a blip in the continued Republican domination of the national security issue, or will it represent a turning point?

Appointing a Republican as Secretary of Defense could send a message that Democrats are still too uncomfortable with the military to take on the responsibility of defending our country by themselves. Moreover, there's no reason not to appoint a Democrat. The party has a deep defense bench that includes military and defense advisors for the Obama and Clinton campaigns--many of whom have served in the Pentagon in previous administrations.

There’s another issue, too, Hagel’s overall politics and his anti-labor, anti-environment, anti-choice, anti-gay voting record. His public objections to the Iraq war and Republican foreign policy in general for the past six years deserve admiration and respect. But outside this realm, Hagel has mostly toed the Cheney-Bush line. As recently as 2006, so it can hardly be something ascribed to youthful indiscretion, Hagel bragged that he voted with the White House 96% of the time.

Here’s what some of that voting record looks like to groups that progressives might have some interest in:

League of Conservation Voters Ratings: 6%  2001-2002; 0% 2003-2004; 7% 2005-2006; 20% 2007-2008; Environment America: 0% 2008; Republicans for Environmental Protection: 21% 2007; 0% 2006; 0% 2005; Campaign for America's Future: 17% 2005-2006; NARAL Ratings: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007: 0%; Family Research Council: 100% 2007; Chamber of Commerce: 100% (2007); Business & Industry Political Action Committee: 100% (2007); National Association of Manufacturers: 100% (2005-2006); National Federation of Independent Business: 100% (2005)

Public Citizens Congress Watch: 12% (2003-2004) 0% (2005-2006); National Tax Limitation Committee: A+ (2008); Citizens for Tax Justice: 0% (2005-2006); NAACP: 20% (2007); 11% (2006); 6% (2005); Human Rights Campaign: 0% every year since 1999; Leadership Conference on Civil Rights: 0% to 13% every year since 1999; Traditional Values Coalition: 100% (2006); National Education Association: 0%-40% (1997-2007); National Employment Lawyers Association: 0% 2007;

On foreign policy, groups like Friends Committee on National Legislation, Peace Action, PeacePac, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Citizens for Global Solutions and the Council for a Livable World never have given him a grade above C or 50%.

State PIRGs Working Together: 0% 2005, 2006; U.S. Public Interest Research Group: 0% 2004, 2005, 2006; AFL-CIO: 16% 2007; 13% in 2006; 9% in 2004; Drum Major Institute for Public Policy (Social Issues) gave a grade of F in 2007; National Association of Social Workers: 0% 2007; Secular Coalition for America: 0% 2006; Center for Trade Policy Studies -- CATO Institute: 100% in 2003-2004; Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America: D+ in 2006; Disabled American Veterans: 60% in 2006 (his best score on anything from a progressive point of view); League of Women Voters: 22% in 2007; National Organization for Women: 5% in 2005-2006

Some specific votes:

Voted NO on $100M to reduce teen pregnancy by education & contraceptives. (March 2005); Voted YES on recommending Constitutional ban on flag desecration; Voted NO on repealing tax subsidy for companies which move US jobs offshore. (March 2005); Voted NO on shifting $11B from corporate tax loopholes to education. (March 2005); Voted NO on banning drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (March 2005); Voted NO on funding for National Endowment for the Arts. (August 1999); Voted NO on favoring 1997 McCain-Feingold overhaul of campaign finance. (October 1997); Voted YES on prohibiting lawsuits against gun manufacturers. (July 2005); Voted YES on limiting medical liability lawsuits to $250,000. (May 2006)’ Voted YES on reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act. (March 2006); Voted NO on raising the minimum wage to $7.25 rather than $6.25. (March 2005); Voted YES on permanently repealing the "death tax." (June 2006).

He did vote against the Kyl-Lieberman Act, and favored, the second time it was voted on, legislation to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq by March 2008.

Except where it crosses war and foreign policy matters, that’s an impressively anti-progressive record for 12 years in the Senate. That, combined with the fact that we have Democrats – like Larry Korb, to give one example – perfectly suited for Secretary of Defense should scratch Hagel off the list for the job.

Which doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have another high-level job in keeping with his foreign policy interests and stance.

In 2007 arrived the culmination of a change in Hagel that had been coming a long time. A Vietnam veteran, Hagel changed his view of the Vietnam War in 1999 after listening to tape recordings of Lyndon Johnson telling a Senator that he knew the United States couldn’t win the war but that he would keep sending troops and materiel to avoid being impeached. That brought Hagel into line with the views of his Vietnam vet brother (they served in the same unit and twice saved each other’s life) that the war had not been a mistake but cynically fought and immoral in its foundations.

When the so-called Iraq War Resolution was voted on in October 2002, Hagel said "aye," but from the floor of the Senate he began what would become a running series of critiques of the neoconservative policies of the Cheney-Bush administration.

"Actions in Iraq must come in the context of an American-led, multilateral approach to disarmament, not as the first case for a new American doctrine involving the preëmptive use of force." He also expressed fear about what he calls "the uncontrollables"—the unpredictable consequences of military action—and about America’s limited knowledge of the Middle East. "How many of us really know and understand Iraq, the country, the history, the people, and the role in the Arab world?" he asked. "The American people must be told of this long-term commitment, risk, and cost of this undertaking. We should not be seduced by the expectations of dancing in the streets." In September, 2004, he called the situation in Iraq "beyond pitiful." Senator John Kerry, in a debate with President Bush in the 2004 campaign, quoted Hagel’s comment, which rankled Hagel’s Republican colleagues. Hagel has frequently described the Administration’s "war on terror" as ill-conceived sloganeering and has argued that, in addition to fighting terrorism, we must fight the poverty and despair that enable terrorism to flourish. In a committee hearing in early 2007, he denounced the Bush Administration’s proposed "surge" strategy, which McCain strongly supported, as "the most dangerous foreign-policy blunder in this country since Vietnam."

Hagel’s internationalist-driven engagement style of foreign policy, his focus on getting out of Iraq, adding thousands of troops to the fight in Afghanistan (as well as permanently adding troops to the Army and Marines overall) - plus emphasizing diplomacy and making an effort to view clashes through the other guy’s eyes - clearly mimics what we’ve heard from Senator Obama. They are said to talk often. Call this "soft power" or "Empire Lite" or whatever, it’s a tilt away from the ultra-aggressive buccaneers now in charge. An improvement, to be sure, but nowhere near what needs to be accomplished, both in ensuring Americans' real security needs and doing something transformative about the corrupt private-public partnership that spins the gears at the Pentagon.

Three possible jobs spring to mind for Hagel:

Director of National Intelligence would be a good fit for someone who has sat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Surely, given the post’s duties and purview, the DNI ought to be of Cabinet rank, like the head of the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Trade Representative.  

Director of Veteran Affairs. Hagel served as an assistant administrator there during the early Reagan Administration.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. A guy in that post who listens as well as talks. What a refreshing change that would be for the world body.

Who then for Defense? If it were up to me, it’d be someone like Ron Dellums, the former Congressman from Oakland, marine veteran, and eventually chairman of the House Armed Services Committee – winning plaudits for fairness even from the likes of Tom Delay. But no way would Obama pick the leftwing Dellums, or anyone close to his political views.

That being so, I go with The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel’s choice of Larry Korb. An assistant defense secretary under Reagan, Korb is now at the Center for American Progress. Along with colleagues, he drafted the first detailed Iraq withdrawal plan in September 2005, a time when few in Congress or in the progressive pantheon – for instance, Wesley Clark - supported the idea. And though Korb supports moving some U.S. troops from Iraq to Afghanistan even without an exit plan, he also favors cutting billions in Pentagon waste and believes that a new national security doctrine could eliminate the need for adding 92,000 soldiers and Marines, as both McCain and Obama have promised.

And he is not the only Democrat who would be a better choice than Hagel.

This is source I found from another site, main source you can find in last paragraph

Source :



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