Out-going Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta has laid out a new policy, allowing women to formally be placed in combat. In what seems to be an Obama administration trend; out-going secretaries making controversial moves on their way (Hillary Clinton accepting responsibility for Benghazi), Panetta asked the various branches of the Defense Department to evaluate and submit for review, the jobs and demands which might be exempted from posting a woman. Those evaluations will be given to the next Defense Secretary, presumably Chuck Hagel, former Senator from Nebraska.
Hagel is making the rounds, trying to respond to questions in a preemptive process before the confirmation hearings. He has gotten recommendations from Chuck Schumer, D-NY, an advocate for Jewish interests, as well as Carl Levin (D-MI). Some of the questions about Hagel were his past dismissals of Jewish lobbying on behalf of Israel as a senator, so Levin’s and Schumer’s approval improve that image.
This week, Hagel has been working hard to connect with his own side of the aisle. He met with John McCain (R-AZ), an influential member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who may be able to draw other Republicans to vote with him. They had what McCain called a “frank and candid conversation” but McCain has not declared his position, deferring to making a decision after the January 31 confirmation hearing.
Hagel also met with Deb Fischer (R), the new junior Senator from Nebraska. The meeting must have been fascinating, as Hagel endorsed Fischer’s Democratic opponent, Bob Kerrey, in the last election. (You can speculate, his endorsement drew attention from the White House, and lead to his nomination. Of course, this President is above making Washington back room deals.)
Fischer, like McCain, also described their conversation as “frank” and declared she is reserving judgement until after the hearing. She did suggest nominees to the defense post have higher expectations, since they oversee the U.S. military around the world.
“They are, I believe, held to a higher level,” Fischer said.
Another stop is Senator Mike Johanns (R) the senior Nebraska senator. After Hagel’s nomination was announced, Johanns made a call to him, but has not spoken to him in the interim, or two years before. Johanns says he is looking forward to getting reacquainted with Hagel and to hearing Hagel’s explanation of positions he’s held in the Senate.
“I just want Chuck to explain his words. He’s taken positions on the Middle East that are really, really contrary to very strong feelings I have. I’m anxious for him to talk about Iran, support for Israel, sanctions, many of the things that he has taken positions on.”
Early comments from Republicans suggest they are using the confirmation process as an opportunity for Hagel to outline his plans and policies; but many have strong reservations based on his historical positions. Republican leaders, like Jim Inhofe (R) of Oklahoma, top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, intend to vote against Hagel, and speculate not many from their party will vote for him.
“There are an awful lot of people who want to wait and see. There may be a lot of Republicans who are already opposed to him that maybe think, ‘Well if I come out before a hearing it doesn’t sound realistic, it doesn’t sound fair.'”said Inhofe.
This is the philosophy for the Obama era, things must be fair. If he survives confirmation, with a handful of Republicans voting for him, Hagel can then place women in combat, and where they can be fired on, to give them a sense of equality and fairness. Of course, the next step in weakening our defenses will be using images and stories of women killed in battle to say how horrible war is. The only time things are truly fair is when you are presented with a “lose-lose” proposition. Prevent women from being in combat, and you “lose” on equality issues. Allow women to be killed, and show much more sympathetic victims of war, and you “lose” even more support for military actions to help and protect around the world.
Chuck, I’m not sure you really want this job, but it’s going to be interesting watching the process next week.