The Tall Tale Of Chuck Hagel

Let me begin by framing the absurdity.

President Obama nominates Republican Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense.

Really?  He couldn’t find a single Democrat willing or able to take the job?

Okay, fine. We’ll accept one absurdity.  But there’s more.

The Republican Party says no.

Really?  Would they rather have a Democrat doing the job?  Because it’s absurd to think that Obama will appoint someone more conservative—although with absurdity popping up all over, I suppose that assumption could be made.

But there’s more.

Why does the Republican Party say no?  Two of the most often cited reasons: because they’re afraid Hagel sympathizes with something called the “Friends of Hamas” and something else called the “Junior League of Hezbollah,” and because they want to continue to hit the President over Benghazi.

Really?  Because about 30 seconds after this “Friends of Hamas” story broke (on, which is a conservative blog that has now been roundly criticized by more reliable media outlets such as the Washington Post and New York Magazine), it was roundly contradicted as a willful misunderstanding of another journalist’s joke.  So to hear it, and variations on it, issuing from the mouths of sitting Senators as if it mattered is yet another absurdity.  And Benghazi—well, scoring political points is fair game, I suppose, for United States Senators.  It’s just usually not particularly smart to telegraph your motives quite as much as Lindsey Graham, for example, has done.

If I’ve learned anything in law school, it’s that the world is an extremely absurd place.  So why should we care about this particular morass of absurdity?

First, because of what’s not being objected to with regards to Hagel’s nomination.  No one, for example, is complaining about Hagel’s support for President Obama’s drone policy—a policy that is rapidly becoming a concern just about everywhere except Washington, it seems.  Nor is anyone expressing much, if any, concern about Hagel’s views on Afghanistan, the F-35 fighter, general US military readiness and strategy, budget cuts from the sequester… the list goes on.  Instead, it’s all Israel, all the time.  Of course Israel, and, by extension, Palestine and Syria, are extremely important.  But certainly there are more matters that are equally or more pressing.

Second, because of the rapidly increasing constraints on the exercise of the Presidential appointments power.  Congress has shown an increasing tendency to hold up appointments for trivial reasons, non-related reasons, and bare political gain.  See, for example, the incredible six-year vacancy at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.  The President’s last nominee never received a hearing, and his latest nominee seems destined for the same fate.  Upon being congratulated by a friend, nominee Byron Todd Jones offered a quick correction: “Oh, you mean sincere condolences.”  The D.C. Circuit’s recent decision in Noel Canning v. NLRB has further limited the effective use of the President’s appointment powers, leaving him essentially without a way to get around Congressional intransigence.

Finally, we should care because this is how your government works now.

Just let that sink in for a moment.  Then ask yourself:


Nathan Reeves is a 1L.

The views in opinion editorials, columns, and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of The Record.

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