LOS ANGELES, January 8, 2013 — President Obama held a press conference yesterday to announce his nomination of Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary and John Brennan as CIA director.
There will be more announcements; with Obama safely reelected, many high-level members of his administration are heading for the exits. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta have tendered their resignations. CIA Director David Petraeus was forced to resign in the wake of a scandal. The Commerce Department has been led by an acting secretary since last summer. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is preparing to leave, as is Press Secretary Jay Carney. Attorney General Eric Holder is widely expected to resign soon, and EPA Director Lisa Jackson wants to spend more time with her family, which is often code for avoiding indictment.
Chief of Staff Jack Lew is expected to depart, either to be appointed as the new Treasury Secretary or into retirement.
The Defense and CIA nominations are particularly high-profile. As with every Obama press conference, this one included self-congratulatory victory laps. Obama “decimated the al Qaeda core,” though apparently not the Benghazi murderers. His “outstanding national security team” still cannot explain who murdered Ambassador Chris Stevens and two Navy SEALs.
Outgoing CIA Director Leon Panetta claimed that Obama has “weakened [al Qaeda’s] ability to attack this country.” He seems to think that al Qaeda is the only Islamist threat to America, failing to mention the Fort Hood shooter, the Christmas Day Underwear Bomber, or the Shoe Bomber, none of whom belonged to a church or synagogue.
After a vigorous round of back-patting, Obama presented John Brennan as his choice for CIA Director and Chuck Hagel as his choice for Defense.
A generic Powerful Bald White Guy (PBWG), Brennan should sail to an easy confirmation. A 25-year CIA insider, he is a rare qualified Obama nominee. Obama did laughably claim that Brennan would make the CIA “open and transparent,” though everyone knows that “open and transparent” is antithetical to the CIA’s mission. Of greater concern was Obama’s assertion that Brennan and National Intelligence Director James Clapper will continue fighting al Qaeda. It is to be hoped that Brennan will take up that fight more competently than deer-in-the-headlights Clapper.
The real fireworks come with Obama’s nomination of former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel for the Defense job. Obama was fully aware that Hagel is objectionable to both the left and the right for, among other things, comments about gays and Israel. This nomination is an exercise in political warfare. Obama needs a diversion from his scandals and looming policy failures, and the Hagel nomination fits the bill. His anger at having to sacrifice Ambassador Susan Rice (he’s so angry you’d think she was killed in Benghazi, and not Ambassador Stevens) makes this his raised digitus impudicus to Republicans. Being forced to back down on Rice gives him incentive to be particularly aggressive now.
Liberals are pretending that the nomination of a “Republican” is an act of bipartisan leadership, a gesture to heal America’s political rift. That’s nonsense. Presidents often appoint members of the rival party to their cabinets as a bipartisan gesture, but it’s recognized as the empty gesture it is. It strains credulity to pretend the Hagel nomination is anything other than deliberate political confrontation. “I won, you lost, deal with it” is Obama’s approach. Humility is not his forte.
Obama referred to the Hagel nomination as “historic” and “unprecedented” because he uses those words to describe everything he does. Hagel “bears scars and shrapnel” and is the “first person of enlisted rank to serve as Secretary of Defense.”
Obama then offered more traditional banalities to introduce his nominee, including “bipartisan,” “widely respected,” “independent,” and “willingness to speak his mind.” He ended with his usual “We are not Democrats or Republicans, but Americans” before leaving to give more speeches where he will imply that Republicans are racists, sexists, bigots, and homophobes.
Hagel spoke of “decency,” and “humanity for all mankind.” Hagel served his country bravely in Vietnam. That does not entitle him or anyone else to lead our military. Cindy Sheehan of Code Pink was, like Hagel, initially for the Iraq War before she was against it. Even if she shared Hagel’s experience and knowledge of foreign affairs, she would be entirely inappropriate to lead DoD.
While President George W. Bush, Senator John McCain, and General David Petraeus were planning and leading the surge that allowed Obama to “inherit” victory in Iraq, Hagel was voting to cut and run. He was wrong, and his judgment should be questioned. America already has Vice President “Iraq Partition” Joe Biden. At some point foreign policy experience should be judged not on committee positions filled and the brilliance of the resume, but on getting big decisions correct.
Obama has calculated some things correctly. He knows Republicans lack the votes to block the nomination. A filibuster is unlikely. Yet many liberal Democrats, including some Senators, are uncomfortable with Hagel.
Hagel has made statements that cross the line from legitimate Israel criticism to outright anti-Semitism. He lambasted the “Israel lobby” and coddled Iran and Hamas. Yet President Obama is bright enough to know that this is irrelevant. Liberal Jews will not publicly criticize a liberal President. They hate and fear Republicans more than they love themselves. They know it and Obama knows it. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman already threw himself on the grenade to spare Hagel, Obama, and liberal Jewish apologists.
Liberal Jews care about social issues. As long as Obama is pro-choice on abortion, pro-gay rights, and pro-green energy, he “shares Jewish values,” and is therefore pro-Israel.
Obama is not anti-Semitic, which would require caring either way. His priorities are healthcare, education, and environmentalism. He is a leftist, and Israel distracts from his contemplation time. He knows Jews do not riot in the streets yelling “no justice, no peace.” They shut up and take it because an abusive Democrat is better than any Republican.
Yet one Obama miscalculation will doom Hagel. For Democratic presidents, Jews are expendable. Blacks and gays are not. Hagel made an anti-gay remark fourteen years ago. Gay rights groups will not accept him. Liberal Jews who never stand up for themselves (except against Republican presidents, which takes as much bravery in liberal Jewish circles as condemning child molesters) will stand up for blacks and gays.
Gay rights groups will publicly oppose Hagel. Liberal Jews will then claim they fought against an anti-Jewish Republican, though the issue of anti-Semitism will be incidental to the gay rights issue.
Obama has feted Edward Said, Rasheed Khalidi, and top foreign policy advisor Samantha Power. Hillary Clinton kissed Suha Arafat after she spoke of Israelis poisoning Palestinian children (Hillary also called Dick Morris a “Jew-bastard”). Yet none of them has engaged in gay-bashing. Democrats define “decency” as the refusal to gay-bash.
For this reason, Hagel will imitate Icarus. Obama will seek revenge with an equally toxic nominee who will be seen fairly or unfairly as anti-Israel and anti-war, but not anti-gay. Cindy Sheehan may yet get the job.
Brooklyn born, Long Island raised, and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a politically conservative columnist, blogger, author, public speaker, satirist and comedian. Eric is the author of the book trilogy “Ideological Bigotry, “Ideological Violence,” and “Ideological Idiocy.”
Eric is 100% alcohol, tobacco, drug, and liberalism free. Follow Eric on Twitter @TYGRRRREXPRESS
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