Chuck Hagel

Secretary Kerry’s Senate testimony basically undermined the entire Syria narrative

John Kerry testifies on Syria

Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to justify the Obama administration’s proposed strike on Syria. Hagel was typically unclear and confused, Dempsey provided a few strategic details, but to nearly everyone watching, Kerry contradicted himself, tripped over his own feet, and significantly undermined most of the arguments for a strike.

One of the primary motivations Kerry gave was that a strike on Syria’s chemical weapons would help keep them out the hands of terrorists. Then when asked whether Hezbollah already had chemical weapons, he said he would answer in a classified briefing scheduled the next day. As with an invocation of the Fifth Amendment, this doesn’t necessarily confirm that Hezbollah already has chemical weapons, but if they don’t it begs the question why he couldn’t have just said so. He mentioned several other sensitive details about the situation on the ground in Syria, including composition of the rebellion and our tactical assistance to them, so I don’t see how the fact that terrorists don’t have chemical weapons would be classified. That is…unless they do. And if they do, then the primary situation the strike is supposed to prevent is already the status quo.

Ted Cruz Questions Chuck Hagel’s Patriotism

After hours of debate yesterday, the Senate Armed Services Committee confirmed former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense, along strict party lines, with a 14-11 vote.  Hagel is expected to narrowly be confirmed by a full vote in the Senate as soon as Minority Ranking Member Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) says all holds placed on the nomination are cleared.   While reasons such as financial disclosure and – in the case of Senator Graham - information on Benghazi have been given for holding Hagel’s nomination, such holds are essentially due to Hagel’s heterodoxy on foreign policy.

Senate Confirmations: An Opportunity Squandered

President Obama’s foreign policy team is undergoing a makeover, with the nominations of Senator John Kerry as Secretary of State, former Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, and the Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan as CIA Director.  All three gentlemen are expected to be confirmed; Kerry already has, Hagel will likely be confirmed (following an abysmal hearing) later this week, and Brennan faces his confirmation hearing this Thursday, which will essentially be the GOP’s final chance to hold Obama accountable for broken national security policies.

The GOP squandered two opportunities to ask proper questions of Kerry and Hagel.  The Kerry confirmation hearing was a jovial affair for one of the first advocates on intervention in the Libyan civil war in 2011, which, by the way, received no congressional authorization.  When Kerry was questioned about congressional authorization, he essentially bragged about his history of support for unilateral Executive action in Grenada, Panama, Kosovo, Bosnia, and yes, Libya.

The Hagel Hearings: Congressional Politics at Its Worst

Written by Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

The confirmation hearings on Chuck Hagel’s nomination to head the Pentagon are mercifully over. His wobbly performance earned derision among neoconservatives, but he responded as they intended to an interrogation that was all about politics, not policy.

As I have noted before, Hagel is under fire because he disputed neoconservative nostrums to speak unpleasant truths to the Republican Party. He was an orthodox conservative, including on foreign policy. However, he was an Eisenhower, not a Dubya, Republican: Hagel criticized the debacle in Iraq, urged negotiation to forestall Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and backed reductions in today’s bloated military budget. General turned President Dwight Eisenhower could not have put it better.

Chuck Hagel Would Be an Excellent Secretary of Defense

Written by Christopher Preble, Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

The rumors that President Obama will nominate Chuck Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defenseshould be welcomed by anyone frustrated by years of war and foreign meddling, and out-of-control spending at the Pentagon. Which is to say, nearly everyone. I hope the reports are true.

The biggest boosters of the Iraq war, the Afghan war, the Libyan war, and possible war with Syria and Iran, are apoplectic. And they should be. Hagel, a decorated Vietnam war veteran, understands war, and doesn’t take it lightly.

Although the president will obviously make the decisions, I expect that Hagel will generally advise against sending U.S. troops on quixotic nation-building missions. We might even see a resurrection of another Republican SecDef’s criteria for restraining Washington’s interventionist tendencies. At a minimum, Hagel will reflect Colin Powell’s view that “American GIs [are] not toy soldiers to be moved around on some sort of global game board.”

U.S. looking at options in Syria, drafting plans for air strikes

After another round of reports that Bashar Assad used chemical weapons against his own citizens in the bloody civil war raging in Syria, President Barack Obama has ordered Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to begin drawing up plans for air strikes in the Middle Eastern country:

A U.S. official said the Pentagon has crafted military options for limited U.S. air strikes in Syria that would send a message to the regime of President Bashar al Assad not to continue using chemical weapons against its civilians.  There has been no presidential decision to use the military options,  and U.S. intelligence continues to investigate an apparent large-scale chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime this week that may have killed as many as 1,000 civilians.

The official said the military options developed for consideration by the White House are limited in scope and would be intended to “deter or prevent” the Assad regime from the further use of chemical weapons.  The options are not intended to remove the Syrian president,  who has tenaciously hung on to power as Syria’s two-year civil war has raged on.

Traveling on a plane to Malaysia, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel confirmed to reporters that Obama had asked the Pentagon to provide military options in Syria in light of the reported use of chemical weapons against civilians by the civilian government.

Ted Cruz is Popular in Texas

Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz (R-TX) has ruffled some feathers since joining the Senate in January. Shortly, after President Obama unveiled his gun control proposals, Cruz dismantled arguments for the Assault Weapons Ban, calling it a “singularly ineffective piece of legislation” and slamming its proponents for misleading Americans.

He was one of three members to vote against John Kerry’s confirmation to serve as Secretary of State and he lead the charge against Chuck Hagel’s nomination for Secretary of Defense, though he did cross a line in his questioning.

Cruz, who won the GOP nomination for Senate with heavy grassroots support against an establishment candidate, is seeing the benefits of his cavalier attitude back in the Lone Star State, according to a new poll:

Texas’s Junior Sen. Ted Cruz has been making some waves since joining the U.S. Senate, and it’s earning him solid poll numbers back home, a new University of Texas/Texas Tribune survey has found.

Senate ends debate on Chuck Hagel’s nomination

Chuck Hagel

Nearly two weeks after Republicans successfully filibustered his appointment, the Senate ended debate on Chuck Hagel’s nomination for Secretary of Defense in a 71-27 vote earlier this afternoon.

Republicans had objected to comments and positions taken by Hagel, who has previously served two terms as member of their caucus in Senate. Some of the comments and innuendo thrown back at Hagel were taken out of context or were based on incredibly tenuous sources, such as the “Friends of Hamas” fiasco.

Shortly after the first cloture vote, Republicans started breaking away. It was apparent that Hagel would be confirmed in due time.

Among the 27 Republicans who voted against cloture were Sens. Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio.

What does Hagel’s confirmation mean? Not much. Republicans insist that he has been margalized due to the confirmation process, but they were ultimately unable to block him. That stunt may have helped them with neo-conservatives, but it did little else. And Hagel isn’t the non-interventionist that anti-war activists are making him out to be, though he has walked back some of his previous views.

Rand Paul asks important questions about Obama’s drones on “Fox News Sunday”

Rand Paul on

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has been spending a lot of time recently working to bring transparency to President Barack Obama’s drones program.

A recently released memo from the Department of Justice laid out a tenuous legal justification for drone strikes on American citizens. While the Obama Administration has promised to explain the “mechanisms” by which they choose their targets, there are still many questions to be answered, including the constitutional issues that come with ignoring the right to due process.

Sen. Paul has said that the nomination of John Brennan to lead the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is more important than Chuck Hagel’s nomination, which Republicans successfully — though only temporarily — stalled last week. He has asked some hard, pointed questions of John Brennan about President Obama’s drones program, including whether or not the White House would carry out drone strikes on American citizens on American soil. But no real answers have been given, and the lack of transparency with this program and the role the CIA will play has prompted Sen. Paul to call Brennan’s nomination the “preeminent libertarian concern.”

Sen. Paul responded to criticism that he has faced from neoconservatives about this issue during an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.

Senate Republicans filibuster Chuck Hagel’s nomination

Chuck Hagel

Senate Republicans took a questionable stand again yesterday as they successfully filibustered Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense.

The GOP case against Hagel has some holes. It seems based more on heresay and glaring misrepresentations of Hagel’s record. Republicans in the chamber have tried to make Hagel as unfriendly to Israel. For example, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) took a quote made by Hagel when he was serving in the Senate completely out of context to make it appear that he was criticizing Israel and then later questioned his patriotism. Jay Bookman has some other examples of the rhetoric used by Republicans against Hagel during confirmation process in the Senate.

And in other cases, it’s a way to go after the White House, such is the case of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who recently said that he planned to hold up Hagel’s nomination until the Obama Administration answers questions about Benghazi.

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