After yesterday's Senate committee interview of former United States Senator Chuck Hagel, Obama's nominee for Secretary of Defense, the prevailing reaction on the Right side of both the Punditocracy and the Internet Commentariat has been stunned incredulity. What was Obama thinking, the talking heads and pixel flingers are saying, to have sent so poor a nominee to the Senate expecting his confirmation?
Come on, boys and girls. Widen your perspective just a wee bit. It's not that hard.
No one has even mentioned that, with Ray LaHood stepping down at the Department of Transportation, Hagel, if confirmed, would be the Obama Administration's "token Republican" Cabinet member. And Hagel isn't just a nominal Republican and former U.S. Senator. Nor is he just an undisguised anti-Semite and hater of Israel. He also opposed virtually every Republican initiative in international affairs throughout his tenure in office, with special emphasis on America's use of its military might. Indeed, Hagel is one of the the best known federal advocates for radically shrinking the nation's armed forces and forswearing their employment as an instrument of foreign policy.
No one appears on Al-Jazeera television to assert that the United States is "a bully nation" by accident. Certainly no Republican.
If the famously incurious, ill-read and ill-educated Barack Hussein Obama had no idea about any of that, surely his advisors did.
In commenting on Geraldo Rivera's ambition to be a United States Senator, our beloved InstaPundit mentioned that Roman Emperor Caligula sent an ass to the Senate. But Professor Reynolds stops short of saying why Caligula did so, or what the parallel is to Rivera's declaration of intent.
Actually, the case of Rivera (or the odious Al Franken before him) isn't as good a parallel as Obama's nomination of Chuck Hagel. Hagel might just be the least suitable, least competent applicant for such a position in the history of the nation. Start with his foreign-policy inclinations, which bear no resemblance to the nominal Republican call for a powerful military and an assertive international stance. Add his antipathy toward Israel, a badly beleaguered democracy surrounded by blood enemies resolved upon its annihilation. Fold in his almost total lack of knowledge of things military. Then sprinkle on his well known personality defects and bake with the klieg lights of a Senatorial interrogation. Does that cake rise?
Obama might have played a long shot here. Even the Senate's Democrats will hesitate before awarding him their votes. However, the probability or improbability of Hagel's confirmation pales before the political importance of his nomination.
Politically, the Hagel nomination does three things:
- It reassures an important component of Obama's support base that yes, he really does hold America responsible for what's wrong with the Middle East and the world generally;
- It exerts an intense, unpleasant pressure on the Republican caucus in the Senate, whose members are mostly old-line GOP Establishment loath to criticize a fellow Republican even when he richly deserves it;
- While adhering cosmetically to the tradition of having one Cabinet member from the opposition party, it simultaneously expresses Obama's contempt for his political adversaries in the clearest possible terms, thereby maddening his opponents and reassuring his more venomous supporters of his intent to destroy all opposition to his rule.
Indeed, that last bit might be the most important part of all in our all-politics-all-the-time milieu.
Obama is no Lincoln. He has no intention of trying to convert his enemies into friends. His overriding aim is to destroy all resistance to his will. Every move he makes, every word he utters must be studied in that light, for they make no sense in any other.
As a divide-to-conquer move, the Hagel nomination is superb. It pits younger, Tea-Party-style Republicans against the older GOP Establishment, widening the gulf and enhancing the prospects for future strife between them. It could only have been more effective if Hagel possessed John McCain's war-hero status.
As a stroke toward solidifying Obama's support on the Left, the nomination is equally splendid. In no other venue is America's international importance quite as important as in the Middle East. It's beyond serious dispute that were America not firmly aligned with Israel -- a status Obama has done his covert best to put into question -- her Muslim neighbors would already have bent all their powers on her destruction. Inasmuch as American Leftists are slaveringly desperate to propitiate world Islam, contriving the downfall of Israel is at or near the top of their foreign-policy priority list. They've been firm in support of Obama's many gestures of disdain for the Jewish state and Benjamin Netanyahu, its prime minister in these troubled times.
Finally, and possibly far more important than one might initially think, the gesture of contempt toward the Republican Party and the one-secretary-from-the-opposition tradition has great potential for eliciting a serious mistake from the Senatorial GOP contingent. Indeed, it might already have committed that mistake by voting to confirm John Kerry -- hey, he served in Vietnam! -- as Secretary of State. Whatever the case, contempt tends to provoke anger, and angry men often act against their own interests.
Obama is no genius, despite the propaganda we've been showered with by his admirers. He might be moderately bright, or he might be the dullest instrument ever inserted into the Oval Office. But somewhere in his circle, even if not in his own person, there's a very shrewd, completely amoral, and utterly ruthless political tactician. The Hagel nomination is just the latest demonstration.