I’ve been on a semi-news blackout for the past couple of days, but yesterday at lunch we were shooting the breeze about whether Republicans really planned to filibuster Chuck Hagel. This is one of those topics where I’m so gobsmacked by the whole thing that I’m not even sure what to say about it.
It’s not that a filibuster would be crazy because Chuck Hagel is himself a Republican. The truth is that he’s been an apostate Republican for a while and has very few fans left among his former colleagues. The reason it’s crazy is just because it’s crazy. If that doesn’t seem like the most cogent argument you’ve ever heard, it’s because words sort of fail me here. The scale of the collective temper tantrum from congressional Republicans has simply been off the charts ever since the election. It started with the insane lynch mob that went after Susan Rice, progressed through the fiscal cliff, then more Benghazi craziness, the debt ceiling, the sequester, and now Chuck Hagel. Hell, even Jack Lew—who, you might recall, has been nominated as Treasury Secretary—is getting grilled over what he knew about Benghazi and when he knew it.
This is just insane. If there’s one thing practically everyone agrees about, it’s that presidents should basically get to pick their own cabinets. You organize an earnest party-line effort to derail someone only if there’s some pretty serious evidence of malfeasance or incompetence. Hagel probably won’t go down in history as a great Secretary of Defense, but he easily passes that bar. He’s a standard issue DC pol with no skeletons in his closet, no bizarre views, and no scandals in his background. You wouldn’t normally even object to someone like that, and you certainly wouldn’t filibuster him, which is entirely without precedent going back at least 40 years.
So why are Republicans doing this? I can’t quite figure it out. Is it a pure pander to the Israel lobby? A way of ginning up the tea party base? Revenge against Hagel for betraying them? Knee-jerk opposition to anything Obama wants? An expression of sheer, uncontrollable rage?
I don’t know. I’m beyond understanding this. It’s crazy.