Monday, March 3, 2008

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Those naïve Brits

Via Andrew Sullivan, I see that the London Times' Sarah Baxter gets face time with Barack Obama. Some fascinating nuggets come out:

Obama is hoping to appoint cross-party figures to his cabinet such as Chuck Hagel, the Republican senator for Nebraska and an opponent of the Iraq war, and Richard Lugar, leader of the Republicans on the Senate foreign relations committee.

Senior advisers confirmed that Hagel, a highly decorated Vietnam war veteran and one of McCain’s closest friends in the Senate, was considered an ideal candidate for defence secretary. Some regard the outspoken Republican as a possible vice-presidential nominee although that might be regarded as a “stretch”.

Asked about his choice of cabinet last week, Obama told The Sunday Times: “Chuck Hagel is a great friend of mine and I respect him very much,” although he was wary of appearing as though he was already choosing the White House curtains....

Obama believes he will be able to neutralise McCain by drawing on the expertise of independent Republicans such as Hagel and Lugar, who is regarded by Obama as a potential secretary of state.

Larry Korb, a defence official under President Ronald Reagan who is backing Obama, said: “By putting a Republican in the Pentagon and the State Department you send a signal to Congress and the American people that issues of national security are above politics.”

Korb recalled that President John F Kennedy appointed Robert McNamara, a Republican, as defence secretary in 1961. “Hagel is not only a Republican but a military veteran who would reassure the troops that there was somebody in the Pentagon who understood their hopes, concerns and fears,” he said.

Now besides the virtue of poking Paul Kruigman with a sharp stick, I have to think that this is just one of those "let's have some fun with Fleet Street" moments in an otherwise exhausting campaign. To be sure, I suspect Obama actually will appoint at least one Republican to an important Cabinet department -- but there is zero chance of both Hagel and Lugar becoming cabinet secretaries in an Obama administration. There are simply too many Democrats who desire high-ranking positions at the Pentagon and Foggy Bottom for this to happen.

Not to mention the fact that if Obama is smart, he wants Hagel and Lugar exactly where they are. They might be Republicans, but they are also GOP Senators willing to "do business" with an Obama administration in the Senate. Unless the fall election is a complete blowout (a possibility to be sure), these politicians are scarce commodities.

posted by Dan on 03.03.08 at 08:40 AM


Isn't Chuck Hagel retiring this year? A cabinet position wouldn't be that bad then. I would like to see Sam Nunn as veep.

posted by: Dquartner on 03.03.08 at 08:40 AM [permalink]

"Korb recalled that President John F Kennedy appointed Robert McNamara"

Well, yes, and look how beautifully that worked out...

I do have a good deal of respect for Hagel, however.

posted by: Tony C. on 03.03.08 at 08:40 AM [permalink]

There should be only one criteria for possible "defense" secretaries:

Who will do the best job of reducing the size and aggressiveness of the American military?

If Hagel can do that because he is a republican, then he should be at the Pentagon. If you need a peacenik-leftie, then pick someone like that. But the US military-industrial complex, and its resultant rampage of wars and destruction is such a problem for America and the world, that someone has to stop it. Hopefully Obama has the sense to see that.

posted by: Joe M. on 03.03.08 at 08:40 AM [permalink]

That is garbage. That is like McCain picking Lieberman for Secretary of State. Hagel, for purposes of foreign policy, is not a Republican and thus this indicates that Obama's version of bi-partisan is finding disgruntled Republicans and calling that bi-partisanship. True bi-partisanship would be an exchange of ideas and actually appointing someone who disagrees with you.

posted by: Anon on 03.03.08 at 08:40 AM [permalink]

Hagel could be every bit the disaster Macnamara was, but as a dove

being a highly decorated vertern does not mean anything in itself whether were talking about John McCain or John Kerry (in the later's case a high suspect decorated veteran)

posted by: Jozef on 03.03.08 at 08:40 AM [permalink]

In addition to McNamara, JFK appointed another Republican, Douglas Dillon, to Treasury (and a third, McGeorge Bundy, as security advisor). And there were planty oif Dems looking for jobs then, too.

posted by: Mr Punch on 03.03.08 at 08:40 AM [permalink]

Senator Hagel might well be a worthy choice for Secretary of Defense. Franklin Roosevelt appointed Republican (and former Secretary of State) Henry Stimson Secretary of War in 1940. Stimson took a lot of heat for it from his party, but I'd say it worked out fairly well for the Red White and Blue.

posted by: joelopines on 03.03.08 at 08:40 AM [permalink]

Er, is everyone forgetting that that paragon of partisanship, Bill Clinton himself, appointed Bill Cohen (R-ME), as his secretary of defense?

posted by: temoc94 on 03.03.08 at 08:40 AM [permalink]

Why wouldn't Hagel and Lugar shoot down any such rumors during the general election. They are moderate senate republicans -- can't they basically be expected to support McCain?

posted by: J Mann on 03.03.08 at 08:40 AM [permalink]

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