Jonah Goldberg wonders aloud why President Obama has nominated Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense:
Is it a bridge across the partisan divide? Or is it an “in-your-face” nomination (South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham’s words) aimed at eliciting a fight with Republicans?
At least from the perspective of nearly everyone on the right, it’s the latter. Whether it’s payback for the scuttled non-nomination of Susan Rice to be secretary of State or whether it’s simply of a piece with Obama’s efforts to divide and conquer the GOP that were on display throughout the “fiscal cliff” negotiations, the consensus in much of conservative Washington is that Obama is making this nomination at least in part out of spite.
Fascinating! Apparently presidents are now required to nominate only people whom the minority party approves of wholeheartedly. If he doesn’t, the reason just has to be pure spite.
Well, politics is everywhere, and I’m sure Obama had some political motivations for his choice. For example, maybe he wanted to remind the country that, once upon a time, the Republican Party included traditional conservatives like Hagel, not just tea party lunatics. But guess what? Hagel is a longtime ally and advisor. He’s on Obama’s side on most important defense issues. I know how ridiculous this must sound, but it’s just barely possible that Obama nominated Hagel because he likes the guy, respects his views, and thinks he’ll do a good job of running the Pentagon and implementing Obama’s policy agenda. Plus, he probably figures that presidents ought to get to choose their own cabinet.
If Republicans want to go to the mattresses to fight Hagel, that’s their choice. “Divide and conquer” only works in this case if the GOP continues its hysterical insistence that Hagel is some kind of raging anti-Semite who will destroy America’s ability to defend itself. If that’s the road they choose, they have no one but themselves to blame if they end up being split down the middle.