National Security Brief: GOP Promises More Hagel Obstruction

Republicans are now resorting to their often-used kitchen-sink strategy, this time in an effort to prevent Chuck Hagel from becoming Secretary of Defense. There’s no real substantive reason Hagel shouldn’t lead the Pentagon but that isn’t stoping the GOP from playing politics with national security (again). Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said on Sunday that he’d block Hagel and CIA Director nominee John Brennan unless he gets more information on what President Obama was doing during the Benghazi terror attack last September (Graham made the same promise if Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta didn’t testify on Benghazi. They did. But Graham’s still moving the goal posts.)

Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member James Inhofe (R-OK) also said on Sunday that he’d force a 60-vote threshold to confirm Hagel and Politico reported that all the committee’s Republicans are threatening to walk out in protest if committee chair Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), who is reportedly “fed up” with the Republicans endless substance-free questions on Hagel, schedules a committee vote for the Nebraska Republican this week.

The Daily Beast’s Peter Beinhart has one explanation: “[N]ow that Bush is gone, and his policies are unpopular, those Republican senators have no alternative worldview,” he writes, “With the exception of Iran, and perhaps nuclear weapons, they’re not even trying to propose alternative policies to the one that Obama and Hagel propose. They’re simply pandering to right-wing Israel supporters, and trying to gin up scandal on issues of no larger significance.”

Slate’s Dave Weigel more on what the neocons and Republicans don’t have on Hagel, including “the ever-shiftiing confidence of the anonymous anti-Hagel sources.”

In other news:

  • CNN reports: The number of innocent victims of drone strikes remains “extremely small” and doesn’t outweigh the benefits of using drones to take out al Qaeda operatives, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates argued Sunday.
  • The Hill reports: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) on Sunday defended the administration’s use of armed drone strikes, saying there was “plenty of oversight.”
  • The New York Times reports: President Obama will use his State of the Union speech on Tuesday to reinvigorate one of his signature national security objectives — drastically reducing nuclear arsenals around the world — after securing agreement in recent months with the United States military that the American nuclear force can be cut in size by roughly a third.
  • And finally, Saturday Night Live spoofed Hagel’s Senate hearing but the clip didn’t make it into the show’s final cut. Watch the clip: