The Hagel Nomination – Will the Senate Fulfill Its Duty?
Of all of the Cabinet Secretaries, it seems to me that the Secretary of Defense demands two separate abilities on the part of the nominee. The first is an ability to develop and maintain a strategic world view, adapting our defense abilities to a constantly shifting set of friends, enemies and technologies.
The second ability is that of an effective manager, who must ensure that the operating effectiveness of the Defense Department is maintained and continuously improved — no mean feat in an organization of this size and complexity. I think we can correctly state that business and policy converge in this position — and perhaps no other Cabinet position is more important at this time in our history.
Anybody who watched even part of the Senate confirmation hearings last week cannot help but have the reaction that Chuck Hagel does not possess these abilities. Not that he is a bad person, but he simply doesn’t have the personal qualities to the level that the job demands.
The U.S. Constitution states that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint” individuals to positions of this nature. Nowhere does it say that the Consent of the Senate is to be presumed, even if it is in the hands of the President’s party.
What we have now is an opportunity for the Senators of both parties to do exactly what our Constitution asks of them. Do they really consent to Chuck Hagel as the next Secretary of Defense, or should they say to President Obama that he’s simply not the right person for the job, and to bring forth another, more considered choice. There is no shame in this. The Senate has a duty to ensure the integrity of our government and the people who manage it, far more than any perceived duty to a party leader.
I’m not optimistic that the Senate will fulfill the expectations placed upon it by the Constitution. Sadly, that is what it has come to in our country today, in which every single decision is primarily a test of party superiority.