December 20, 2012
THE TROUBLE WITH SYMBOLS:
Stand Up to the Intimidators (Paul R. Pillar, December 19, 2012, National Interest)
Neither Chuck Hagel nor anyone else has a right to any cabinet post, but given how this matter has already evolved, if the president now does not nominate him for the defense job it will be universally seen as a caving in to the neocons and Netanyahuites. Mr. Obama will be politically weaker as a result. He will have lost political capital rather than having conserved it. And he will have encouraged more such intimidation in the future.Conversely, standing up to the intimidators and pushing a Hagel nomination through to confirmation would improve his ability to battle against the same forces on other issues.
Mr. Pillar is on to something here, but its meaning eludes him. The only importance of a potential Hagel nomination lies in its symbolism. No one actually thinks that he'd be a good secretary of defense, nor that he brings any worthwhile ideas to the national security debate. The only reason to nominate him would be to give a thin Republicanish veneer to a post that is going to be required to accept and justify massive spending cuts.
All Republicans are doing is stripping away the veneer, at which point, nothing remains. So the President could try to force a nomination fight, but it's a battle where he can only lose. Either the nomination loses outright or he gets a secretary who is worthless, a definitively Pyrrhic victory.
Posted by Orrin Judd at December 20, 2012 6:47 PM