“Sliming” Hagel

In a most interesting follow-up to Chuck Hagel’s recent narrow endorsement by the Senate which launched this Republican into the Secretary of Defense seat, HuffPost’s Jon Soltz wrote a resounding endorsement of the man and made some intriguing points as well. To begin with, he thinks the appointment bodes well for veterans and for the Department of Defense generally since Hagel is the right man for the job and his position has been strengthened by the ordeal he has been put through. Further, he thinks it will be fun to watch those Senators who attempted to smear Hagel’s reputation and bring him to his knees kiss up to Hagel in an attempt to curry favor with a man who is now in a position to improve their political fortunes by sending defense contracts their way — or not. What goes around comes around.

           Chuck Hagel

Chuck Hagel

But what is disturbing in Mr. Soltz’s piece is the following tidbit about the amount of extortion the ultra-conservatives who attempted to block Hagel’s appointment are bringing to bear against those they regard as fence-sitting colleagues in their own party:

Politically, the faux fight over Hagel’s nomination has dramatically shown a Republican Party in complete disarray, in the midst of their own civil war. On one hand, there are some Republican senators who, today, put the nation above politics, and refused to engage in sliming a great American veteran. On the other hand, there is an increasingly shrill fringe right who, in conjunction with the same neoconservatives who led us into Iraq, continue to show that they will put anything — even American security — below their own self-aggrandizement and continued campaign to oppose anything the Obama administration says or does.

That fringe wing continues to threaten senators with primary challenges, which has specifically scared formerly moderate senators like Lindsey Graham into joining their ranks. It wasn’t just obvious. It was completely transparent. In an NPR piece, South Carolina Republican State Senator Tom Davis didn’t even try to hide it:

Davis says “[Graham’s actions against Hagel] masks votes Graham has taken that conflict with small-government ideals. Graham voted for the bank bailout, once worked on climate change legislation and voted for the recent fiscal cliff deal that allowed taxes to rise on the wealthiest Americans.
“All of those things have caused individuals to wonder whether or not [Graham] is representative of the type of conservative or the type of Republican that we need in Washington, D.C., right now.”

We have all known for some time that this group of nutters marches to its own drummer — a drummer, by the way, with no sense of rhythm whatever — and we can only hope that they will soon march right out of the political picture as just another bad dream that we will all wake up from with a start. I say again: we can hope this will happen. But they have the Big Bucks behind them and they are nothing if not fanatical about what they regard as their “cause” — which is euphemistically called “small government.” Their dream is to live in a country where they can increase their immense wealth with minimal government interference, even though they want a gigantic military behind them for protection and are always among the first to cry for help when their business interests are threatened.

Davis’ comment that Graham is not “the type of Republican we need in Washington, D.C. right now” couldn’t be more wrong. The kind of Republican we all need in Washington right now is precisely ones who have no allegiance whatever with the neo-cons and their wealthy backers. This country was founded on the sovereignty of the people, not the few wealthy nut-cases who want everything to go their way and will resort to extortion to make sure it happens.

Who Cares?

I have blogged about the drone kills before, though the posts have not been overly popular. I don’t think people like to think about these anti-terrorist tactics that may strike some as in themselves terroristic. This is especially so since mistakes have been made in the past and a number of innocent lives, estimated at the end of last year to be around 145, have been lost in those attacks. And it has been revealed recently that even the targeting of American citizens anywhere in the world (except the United States) has been approved — if they are suspected of terrorist tendencies. At what point do we balk?

A poll recently revealed that 77% of the Democrats polled approve of the drone kills. That number astounded me, and it makes me wonder if that many Democrats would approve of the flights if they were ordered by a Republican president. It doesn’t seem to me that any citizen should simply approve of what his or her President does simply because they happen to be of the same political party. If something is wrong, it is wrong no matter who orders it.

But, speaking of wrong, in a recent speech  in his home state of South Carolina covered by Yahoo News, Senator Lindsey Graham seemed to be bragging as he had the following interesting remark to make about these drone attacks:

“We’ve killed 4,700,” the lawmaker said. “Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we’re at war, and we’ve taken out some very senior members of Al-Qaeda.”

Graham’s dismissive aside about the innocent lives that have been taken is extremely offensive. And I hesitate to point out the fact that the same intelligence community that is providing information about who are and who are not “very senior members of Al-Qaeda” failed to provide adequate information to this government about the attacks on the Twin Towers or the more recent terrorist attacks on the American Embassy in Benghazi. So we don’t really know how many innocent lives have been lost in these strikes.

But what is especially disturbing about Graham’s remarks is his claim that we are at war. We are not at war, though we have coined the phrase “war on terror” to hide our shame. Indeed, we are the best protected nation in the world with 300,000 troops stationed overseas and oceans on either side of this continent. But even if we were in a war declared as such by this Congress, we should hesitate to approve of tactics that are known to have “residual effects,” as they say, in taking the lives of innocent people.

How would we feel about this if these drone attacks were ordered by, say, Iran, and they targeted the Secretary of Defense (or Senator Graham for that matter) and they happened to “take out” several dozen innocent American lives at the same time? I dare say there would be outrage and cries for retaliation — as well there should be. What we would not want done to ourselves we should not want done to others.There is simply no way these attacks can be defended on ethical grounds.

But if you are keeping score, “they” killed 3000 people in the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers; we have now apparently killed 4,700 of them. We’re ahead. How sickening.

Obstructionist Tactics

A somewhat bizarre series of comments surfaced on Sunday during an appearance by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Graham is determined to hold up confirmation of two of the President’s national security advisors until he “gets to the bottom” of the Benghazi debacle. As Graham said on that program:

“In a constitutional democracy, we need to know what our commander-in-chief was doing at a time of great crisis, and this White House has been stonewalling the Congress, and I’m going to do everything I can to get to the bottom of this so we’ll learn from our mistakes and hold this president accountable for what I think is tremendous disengagement at a time of national security crisis,” he said.

At the Senate hearing, Panetta testified that he and Dempsey were meeting with Obama when they first learned of the Libya assault. He said the president told them to deploy forces as quickly as possible.

Graham asked whether Panetta spoke again to Obama after that first meeting. Panetta said no, but that the White House was in touch with military officials and aware of what was happening. At one point, Graham asked Panetta if he knew what time Obama went to sleep that night. The Pentagon chief said he did not.

While this assuredly smacks of extortion, it would seem that even though Panetta and Dempsey have already answered Graham’s questions the man is determined to grandstand and draw attention to himself while he tries to make political hay. (He wants to know what time the President went to bed, for Pete’s sake!) It’s hard to know what is on this man’s tiny mind, except to try to continue to embarrass the Administration in the name of the “families” of those who were killed on that dreadful day. It certainly is not designed to help the government to do its job by moving on to the serious problems facing the nation. It would seem that the questions have been answered, in so far as they can be answered, and that nothing except Graham’s ego and his political future are served by continuing to twist a knife in painful wounds.

I am reminded of Henry Adams’ hatred of the Senate after the experience his grandfather and great-grandfather had trying to serve the nation as President only to have the Senate repeatedly exercise its power in opposition to the will of the President of the United States. I wrote about this some time ago. Granted, Adams had a bias, but he is certainly correct in pointing out that the Senate, under our Constitution, has tremendous power if they choose to exercise it. And with no term limits that power simply increases.

The founders were so worried that the executive would have too much power that they effectively handcuffed anyone in that office by giving the oversight powers to the Senate to check the President’s every move. One look at the Constitution convinces us that the writers gave considerably more attention to the role of the Senate than they did the President or the House of Representatives. This is almost certainly because they saw the Senate as America’s version of the House of Lords, an elite group of landed (wealthy) men who would have the best interest of the country at heart and could not be easily swayed by personal motives. We have seen how that turned out.

In any event, Graham’s histrionics are misplaced and entirely self-serving. He should get back to work and see what he can do to contribute to the pressing problems that face a nation during difficult  economic times with a globe that continues to warm as he vents his spleen and draws attention to himself.