Category Archives: White House

Hagel Drama: What happens next?

If you like drama in politics, the real kind, not the kind we see on TV, watch what happens next on the Hagel nomination.

Yesterday, the Democrats on the Armed Services Committee voted unanimously to report the Hagel nomination to the floor of the Senate. Harry Reid has already promised to take it up in a big hurry-maybe even today.

Unless those damn Republicans show a shocking lack of respect for Precedent and filibuster the nomination.  And instead of the nice, polite Senate courtesies, Reid has apparently said that those opposing the nomination will need to be present on the floor to object. Then he will file a cloture petition, which will essentially start a countdown to the vote. If  Hagel can’t get 60 votes for cloture, his nomination is effectively killed.

Of course, there is a good chance they can dig up five Republicans to back the  President. We know they have two, but we don’t know who the other three might be just yet. Some Republicans may back Hagel because they will decide if Hagel is withdrawn, the next one might be even worse.

Politico has a caption: “Even if Hagel cracks the 60-vote threshold, the GOP will have sent a message.” The Hill has two stories: One that says some GOP  senators will filibuster and the other saying Harry Reid predicts they won’t. The Washington Post snarks that Sen Lindsay Graham is just trying to shine up his conservative credentials by opposing Hagel. The other Republicans are just plain partisan, of course.

What should have been a fig leaf of bipartisanship, a pretense of a strong defense advocate because everyone knows Republicans are strong on defense—has fooled no one. Whether Hagel is qualified, whether he will eagerly facilitate the reining in of the department, these are all substantive arguments to be made or refuted. The weak qualifications, questionable judgment, the blind partisan support of the President—we’ve seen it all before. It’s called politics.

If he is confirmed, Hagel will be damaged goods, unlikely to manage DoD or be its advocate. This doesn’t seem to be a problem for the administration. Quite the contrary. However,  just as the President now owns the economy, he will own defense policy.  He has chosen a weak nominee, and chosen to keep him. The international implications and the impact on our safety will be on him.

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Harry’s Math Problem OR, Why Harry Reid might lose a little sleep this time around

Seems like every day we read breathless articles about angst and remorse in the Republican party, and how civil war may be about to break out. Will they lose the House in the next election? Will they kill each other over immigration? Is Boehner out?  Is Karl Rove a traitor? Is the Tea Party over/leaving the party/imploding? Is this what is really going on?

Here’s something else to think about. Something that might bother Harry Reid even more than deciding  how to vote on the assault rifle ban.

Harry Reid

Harry has a math problem.  Don’t worry. Keep reading. It’s just arithmetic.

There are 45 Republicans in the Senate. They need 6 more to control the world’s greatest deliberative body.  In  2014, there are 20 Democrats and 13 Republicans up for reelection.  In other words, the Democrats have a lot to lose. 

The Republican in the tightest race last time was Mitch McConnell, Republican leader of the Senate, and he won 53% of the vote. I’m sure it is possible some of the Republicans will have a tough time. 

But let’s look at the Democrats. Seven of the states  with Senate seats up in ’14 were won by Romney in 2012, most by a large margin:

Baucus, Max (D-MT)

Begich, Mark (D-AK)

Hagan, Kay R. (D-NC)

Johnson, Tim (D-SD)

Landrieu, Mary L. (D-LA)

Pryor, Mark L. (D-AR)

Rockefeller, John D., IV (D-WV-Retiring)

Granted some of these  individual senators may be very popular at home, but what if they are pushed to vote on major issues out of step with their states?

Here’s a word problem for Harry: What happens in Montana, where Obama got 41.8% when they are reminded  their Senator is a Democrat? Will they be happy if they find out he is the one  pushing the Obama tax agenda as Chairman of the Finance Committee, that he was instrumental in passing Obamacare?

If seven seats aren’t enough to get you thinking, consider retirements and toss-ups. The rest of the 2014 class of Democratic Senators:

Coons, Christopher A. (D-DE)

Durbin, Richard J. (D-IL)

Franken, Al (D-MN)

Harkin, Tom (D-IA- Retiring)

Kerry, John F. (D-MA)

Lautenberg, Frank R. (D-NJ)

Levin, Carl (D-MI)

Merkley, Jeff (D-OR)

Reed, Jack (D-RI)

Shaheen, Jeanne (D-NH)

Udall, Mark (D-CO)

Udall, Tom (D-NM)

Warner, Mark R. (D-VA)

Levin and Durbin haven’t announced for reelection. Harkin and Rockefeller are retiring. John Kerry’s seat is open. Al Franken won 42% of the vote last time. And Michigan has a Republican governor.

Shaheen won a tight race.  Both Udalls and Warner won easily, but their states were in the toss-up column in 2012 until election day.

And when did Delaware become solidly blue? (Since they haven’t had a strong candidate run for a Senate seat since Bill Roth). New  Jersey is usually a safe seat for Democrats, but what if there are two seats open?

Of course, the same thing could have been said of the 2012 election. The Republicans had a huge advantage going in, but managed to lose what should have been some easy seats. But in an off-year election,  in the second term of a President…anything can happen.

When you drill down on the details–do the math–things will need to go very, very smoothly in the next 18 months for Harry Reid to sleep well on election night.

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Hagel Nomination in Trouble?

A rare consensus seems to have formed in Washington: Chuck Hagel was not good in his hearing. Not even a little good. Most of the press reports characterize the questioning as partisan, with Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post snarking that the Republican anger was rooted in Hagel’s abandonment of the GOP. But still, the pundits were not impressed.

So what happens next?

Hagel has promised to provide more information to the committee on his finances and his speeches. Chairman Levin said they wanted to move the nomination next week. That won’t give much time for analysis of the information, of course. Right now, Hagel still has the votes-He only needs a majority and he has roughly 56, including Sen. Cochran. Sen. Graham extracted a promise to hold a hearing on Benghazi before the vote. Who knows what will shake loose in those discussions. Also, if enough time passes, and enough microphones are in place, it is quite possible more Hagel gaffes will take place.  Although the greater likelihood is that he will be gagged, bound, encased in amber, perhaps hidden at the Smithsonian until after the vote, unseen and unheard.

The only question is, if the Republicans try to block the nomination, does he have 60 votes to stop them. And if it comes to that, does the administration want to take on that fight?  Waste political capital on someone who had interviews with Al Jazeera, alienates key donors, who seems inept and, who would be viewed by the world as having weak support in the Congress? How exactly will they spin that? Will he be their token White Male?

At the end of the day, again, the Democrats have the votes. We don’t know if the Republicans will have the stomach for the fight, or whether their calculus will be to let the President have his people and let him be accountable for the consequences.

Given his performance in the hearing, more than anything else, that should alarm the Democrats.

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Hagel Hearing: What’s the latest? Hearing delay? Follow the $$$?

Six Senators, five of whom are on the Armed Services Committee, sent  Hagel a letter  demanding more info on certain investments and entities he is associated with, according to WaPo conservative maven Jennifer Rubin.  “If this material is not provided at least 24 hours prior to Thursday’s hearing, it will provide the substantial basis for a delay in any further consideration of your nomination until such disclosure has been made and sufficient time has been taken to review that material.”

In the Senate, this is as close to they come to pulling a knife on someone. It may be  interesting to see what  is revealed by the response to the letter.

Also, Sen Lindsay Graham said he would put a hold on the nomination until Panetta testifies on Benghazi.

The rumbling of discontent comes amid daily testimonials and gushing press assessments that he will likely be confirmed.

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) has announced support- the first Republican to do so.

Former Armed Services Chairmen Sam Nunn and  John Warner will accompany Hagel at the hearing and introduce him.

A gay former Hagel staffer penned an enthusiastic endorsement op-ed in the Washington Post this week.

If you haven’t had a chance to acquaint yourself with Hagel’s views, you will find the Rubin article useful. 

Will they really delay the hearings? Maybe not, but it seems unlikely to be over in one day. Democrats controlling the committee may remember that they are setting a dangerous precedent if they press for a vote before the facts are in and before the minority is satisfied  The tables may turn in future elections and they may have to take what they are dishing out.

Will they filibuster the nomination if they don’t get answers? If it comes to that, Hagel may withdraw.

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Filed under 2012 Election, White House

What about Hagel?

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I’m not that old, really, but I’m not that young, either, and I cannot remember a presidential nominee from the Senate who was so reviled by his own party. All the inside the beltway smarties like to tell us the Senate always approves their own–that the hearings and the vote will pretty much be a formality.

So what in the world is going on here? Fellow Republicans are calling out Hagel for his judgment, his temperament, his personality, his inability to get along with others.

His own party? Come on—surely they will put the kibosh on this one.

Maybe not. A lot of members follow the philosophy that the President should get to pick his own people. And more to the point, all they need is a majority vote. Do the math. Unless some Democrats bolt on the President, he’s in.

Or, not so fast. Because first, they get to have hearings And when you have a loose cannon on rough waters, well, you get the idea… sometimes they go off unexpectedly. Sometimes they go overboard. Personally I am looking forward to the hearings. I can’t wait to hear what he says now about gay rights, Jews, Israel, the surge in Iraq and how he plans to cut the DoD budget. I want to watch his face. Will he become humble? Meek? Deferential? Remember that scene in Men in Black when the man suit peel off the giant cockroach?

Still, the odds are against blocking the nomination. The whole endeavor reminds me of a couple of parents begging their child not to marry this unsuitable, appalling prospective partner. Do you really want to marry this guy? Do you really want to put him in charge of the Department of Defense, of the safety of the United States? Someone who would make these foolish, intemperate statements?

What do you think? Will the Senate block him? Will he have to withdraw? Will he make it through the hearings unscathed? Please vote in my poll!

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Filed under 2012 Election, Drury, Senate, White House

Richard Ben Cramer, Rest in Peace

Just heard the very sad news this morning that Richard Ben Cramer has passed away. He was the author of one of the best books about politics, What It Takes: The Way to the White House. I don’t really know the particulars of his life. The news said he had lung cancer. As a writer, I suspect he would prefer we focus on his writing, his legacy.

His legacy is that he wrote a masterpiece on American politics. Really. In a world where superlatives are tossed around like confetti, this work is in fact a masterpiece. It also could be a doorstop, with over 1000 pages in the hardcover, which I acquired shortly after it was published.  When you combine exhaustive research and beautiful writing, you may have a good book.
But Richard Ben Cramer got each of his subjects. Some of them come off better than others, but you never have a sense that he was playing favorites, or that he was unfair.It is so easy to slide into insults and sarcastic comments when referring to politicians. Not that we shouldn’t, but we know, surely, that there is more to it. Not many books focus on this subject without trivializing the subject and the subjects. He was able to plumb their public persona and reach the person–the Human that we know must be inside all politicians.

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Filed under 2012 Election, Biden, campaign tactics, Vice President, White House

Tick Tock: Predictions Please!

We are coming down to the wire. There is still time for a surprise or two. Gallup? Rasmussen? ABC-Washington Post- NYT -CBS … They’re all over the map. But come on, you know you have an opinion. Time to show your cards:

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Filed under 2012 Election, Spin Doctor, White House

The Foreign Policy Debate: What did you think?

See Poll on Left Sidebar

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Bob and Jack Missing; Possible sighting near Hofstra (Pls Tweet if you spot them)

Apparently there is a bar near Hofstra called the Dizzy Lizard. They aren’t answering their cell phones. I expected this of Bob. In fact, I thought Bob might accidentally go to Detroit to watch the Yankees. But Jack? Not sure how he’s going to spin this.

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Filed under 2012 Election, campaign tactics, Spin Doctor, White House

Debate Advice from Jack and Bob: Look, Don’t Listen!

I know the debate could not possibly be as eventful as the one in Spin Doctor.  However, I asked a couple of characters to give us a report on it:

Jack pushed his way through the tourists at the Old Ebbitt toward the bar in the back, where he was surprised to see Bob, already at the bar. “I thought M.C. asked you to go to Colorado for the debate. What are you doing here?”

Bob shifted on the barstool. “I’m supposed to watch the debate, right? So I can do that here.”

“No, you are supposed to be there. In person.” Jack slid onto the stool next to him, waived at the bartender and pointed to the Heineken tap.

Bob shook his head. “First of all, the people in the room will have no idea what is going on. They will talk to each other, squint at the stage, strain to hear over the applause that isn’t supposed to happen.” He took a sip of an amber drink in a short glass. “If you want to know what happens, you have to watch TV.”

The bartender placed a napkin in front of Jack and set the beer on it. When he went back to the other end of the bar, Jack went on: “Well you aren’t going to try to watch it here, are you?  I mean it isn’t noisy, but you won’t be able to hear a word they say.”

“Exactly. If I watched it at home, I would be tempted to listen. But that’s a mistake.”

“No. Seriousy. You can come over to Evan’s condo. We are going to get some beer and watch it there.”

“No. Thanks anyway.” Bob waved his empty glass  at the bartender, who nodded  back. “Besides, you two will probably make a drinking game out of the word “deficit” or “fiscal cliff.” You really can tell what’s going on better with the sound off. It’s visual. It doesn’t matter what they say. It’s how they react.”

“Really.”

“Stop saying that. I’m not kidding. Remember the Lloyd Bentsen-Dan Quayle moment? It wasn’t what he said as much as Quayle’s reaction. And Bush the Elder, when he looked at his watch. Visual. Didn’t say a word.”

“That was ages ago. Don’t you think voters are more sophisticated now? “

“Maybe. But it’s still about what your eyes take in. If you hear the words, it’s hard to concentrate on the visuals.”

“I’m starting to believe you are serious. What about the last election?”

“Easy.  The debate was a draw. Amiable old guy versus smooth young guy.  Bush the younger won both of his, but not on words. Gore and Kerry struck some voters as condescending. Like they were talking to a group of naughty five year olds.  And remember Gore’s sighs? And those Reagan moments they keep playing in a loop? You can tell without the sound that he nailed those lines.”

“I still think M.C. wanted you to go to Colorado.”

“Look, nothing like what happens in Spin Doctor is going to happen in this debate. I’m not going to another time zone. Also, the air is thin. And it’s not like I’m going to find anything out in those spin rooms. I can tell you what they’re going to say before the debate starts.”

“Plus, there is no bar in the auditorium.”

“I very much doubt it.”

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October 3, 2012 · 12:57 pm