Today, the Senate Armed Services Committee begins its consideration of the nomination of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense. The former Republican Senator from Nebraska is a combat veteran, but has little other experience in America’s national security infrastructure. His nomination faces strong resistance, due largely to past positions he has taken with respect to Israel and Iran. In response to this criticism, the Pentagon has undertaken an unprecedented lobbying campaign in support of Hagel.
The Pentagon’s congressional liaison office has distributed “fact sheets” about Hagel’s past positions to Senate offices. The documents seek to dispel “myths” about Hagel, chiefly that he is anti-Israel and soft on Iran.
The Pentagon’s aggressive move in support of Hagel’s nomination is unprecedented. Agencies are traditionally silent when a nominee to head it is under confirmation. It is not the role of the Pentagon to defend Hagel’s record. That is a task more appropriate for the nominee or the White House.
The Pentagon’s role, however, is consistent with Obama’s views of government. In his worldview, all levers of the government are available to be used to meet his political ends. Under Obama, even departments and agencies can be leveraged to lobby openly for their own bosses.
If Hagel is confirmed, he will owe some portion of his confirmation to staff members he will then supervise. It is an unfortunate way to fill a cabinet.