What makes this so interesting is that the candidate, Chuck Hagel, is a Republican. This has pissed off a lot of Democrats, who've argued - not unreasonably - that replacing Obama's first Republican Secretary of Defence with another Republican Secretary of Defence rather cements the idea that Democrats don't have what it takes to handle the defence of the country. Personally, I think that argument carries more than a little weight, though it may be I'm still pissed off from the amount of airtime Republicans were given in 2009 to bitch that Obama's cabinet was only one-third Republican and thus insufficiently bipartisan. You get no prizes for guessing what proportion of Bush's cabinet was Democratic, nor for guessing exactly how much time the cowardly hand-wringers on TV spent worrying about bipartisanship back then.
At the very least, though, you'd think Republican Senators would think twice before arguing a former Republican Senator was egregiously unqualified for a government post. Of course, thinking twice requires thinking once.
Hagel's confirmation hearing and the following Armed Services committee meeting in themselves pretty bleakly comic. Watching that many American politicians argue another American politician isn't fit for an American political post because he doesn't love Israel enough is funny anyway, but seeing a Republican Senator channelling Tailgunner Joe (step 1: make some shit up about someone; step 2: insist it must be true if that someone can't - or won't jump through the hoops you insist are necessary to - prove it isn't) was funnier still. It didn't get to truly hilarious levels though until it transpired that one of the main props of the GOPs hissy-fit marquee - that it was rumoured someone heard someone else say that someone implied maybe that Hagel had received money from a group called "Friends of Hamas" - came from a reporter making up a ludicrous-sounding political group for comic effect, which the entire American conservative noise machine then swallowed whole.
(Clearly Friedman should have shot for the stars, here. Why go with "Friends of Hamas" when he could have gone with "Supporters of Dead Babies as Entrees" or "Self-Fellating Hitler Worshippers"? I don't believe either of those are too crazy for Breibart.com to run with as genuine organisations, actually, but if you're surrounded with idiots you may as well have fun with it.)
All of this associated insanity - the unbearable idea that a man who was once mean to Israel and who's not willing to turn over the entirety of his financial returns so Ted Cruz can check nothing in the credit column is written in Arabic - led to Hagel being filibustered last week. That doesn't mean he won't be Secretary of Defence, it just means these Republicans can stomp their feet and scream at clouds on national TV for another week. Hagel is pretty much a lock, unless his haters can pull something extraordinary out of the bag. Like, perhaps... a strongly worded letter?
Nothing like this has ever been done to a candidate for this post before. Pretty much nothing like this has ever been done to any cabinet candidate before, it generally being agreed upon that a president should get to pick who works directly for him. Which is why this line got me laughing so hard:
It would be unprecedented for a Secretary of Defense to take office without the broad base of bipartisan support and confidence needed to serve effectively in this critical position.Get it? Never before has such an insane baseless vendetta been kicked off by such whining, camera-hungry posing cranks, so clearly Hagel is going to have to go. Could the President start taking his responsibilities more seriously, please, and find an eminently qualified Republican politician who no-one's ever joked about? Preferably one with Netenyahu on speed-dial, kthanxbye?
Someone suggested the other way that the entirety of the Republican congressional delegation has become so utterly unmoored from reality Obama could get everything he wanted immediately by just going on television and saying he's desperate to get the exact opposite. At this point, I'm starting to think that's more than plausible.