Hagel's foes: A lynch mob stalks another possible Cabinet pick
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The Israel lobby and some Republican senators are busily attacking former Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican from Nebraska who appears to be President Barack Obama's choice to become secretary of defense in his second term.
A collection of Obama opponents has already succeeded in knocking United Nations Ambassador Susan E. Rice out of the running to become secretary of state, again before he could make a nomination to the post.
That is the first problem. Every president should have the opportunity to assemble his or her own Cabinet. The Senate, of course, has the right to "advise and consent" to his nominations, based on the merits of the nominees as they determine them to be. At the same time, it is an injustice and particularly useless on the part of senators, or even worse, lobbyists, to prejudge the president's choices before he even announces them or before the senators have had the opportunity to question the nominees in hearings.
Any president has in mind a particular program in each subject area that he wishes to carry out during his term. He needs to be able to choose an appropriate Cabinet member to lead that effort. Second, he probably also has in mind a mix of Cabinet officers, based on region, gender, ethnicity and political diversity, that he wishes to put in place to advise him and lead their departments.
Mr. Hagel's critics have questioned whether he is sufficiently supportive of Israel and focused on his criticism of President George W. Bush's policies on the Iraq War. The Benghazi hawks, Israel lobby and perhaps even just Republicans wishing to make Mr. Obama's job as difficult as possible in his second term seek to undercut the president's ability to put together a coherent policy and working team.
Actually, if Mr. Hagel were to get the job, he would probably serve well as the head of defense. He is a Vietnam War veteran who earned two Purple Hearts. In the Senate, where he served for 12 years, he was on the Select Intelligence and Foreign Relations committees. He is now a professor at Georgetown University and co-chairman of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board.
Other credible possibilities are rumored for the defense post and Mr. Obama could choose one of them instead of Mr. Hagel. The most important thing for Mr. Obama to do now is put up without delay a slate of nominees for the top posts at State, Defense, Treasury and the CIA, putting an end to the destructive pre-nomination trashing and inappropriate screening of potential nominees. Surely Washington has something better to do.
First Published December 21, 2012 12:00 am