Background: On “Meet the Press,” Senator McCain (R-AZ) said he would no longer hold up the confirmation of former Senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, even though he doesn’t believe Hagel is qualified.
That lead to Rubin’s rant:
What McCain is, in effect, saying is that he has no personal or professional problem with putting an incompetent man in charge not only of America’s defense but also—because of what falls under the Pentagon’s umbrella—most of America’s intelligence assets as well.
McCain prides himself on being a maverick. How sad it is that in the twilight of his great career, McCain now is so willing to knowingly undercut U.S. national security. How reassuring it must be to Kim Jong-un in North Korea, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon, and Ali Khamenei in Iran that McCain is so willing to help install an unqualified Defense Secretary. The only questions now is not whether the will test the United States, but when and how many U.S. serviceman will die because of it.
Senators often fall back on the principle of “comity,” a principle of “getting along for the good of the nation” that includes granting a very broad deference to the President in his cabinet choices. But lately it seems that, particularly under Obama, “getting along” really means “Republicans should shut up and take it.”
Now, I’m all for getting along in a genuine sense: mutual compromise in which majority and minority each give on something, and the legislature and the executive show a willingness to deal. Our form of government needs that. Hence, while I despise John Kerry, he is arguably qualified to serve as Secretary of State, where he or any other SoS would be implementing Obama’s policies. So, I had little problem with the senators who voted to confirm him, even if I wouldn’t have.
But that assumes basic competence, and Senator McCain said flatly that Hagel is unqualified. In that case, voting to confirm him (or, at least, not block him) isn’t “comity,” it’s not courteous deference in the face of policy disagreement. To accede to the appointment of someone unqualified for the office is a dereliction of one’s duty as a senator to advise and consent. Before any obligation to “get along” is one’s duty to one’s constitutional obligations and the welfare of the nation.
As Senator Ted Cruz said,
“Of course comity is important, but comity does not mean avoiding the truth concerning a nominee’s policy record…”
So why, Senator McCain, are you giving consent to Senator Hagel as Defense Secretary when you think he is incompetent?
PS: To those who think not staging a filibuster or not otherwise holding up Hagel’s nomination is somehow different from voting to confirm him, I answer “don’t be naive.” The Democrats have enough votes to carry the nomination, particularly if a national security hawk like McCain will no longer try to block it. In this case, dropping opposition is the same as voting to confirm.
(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)