National Security Brief: Panetta Chides GOP For ‘Mean’ Hagel Attacks

Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta yesterday during final press conference lamented that there is “too much meanness” in Congress, referring to the GOP’s obstruction of and attacks on Chuck Hagel. Panetta said the partisanship on Hagel’s nomination was “in full display” this week during Hagel’s committee nomination vote.

“[T]here are also some lines that are there that make that process work, lines that involve mutual respect, lines that involve, you know, courtesy and a degree of respect for each other,” he said. “And you kind of see that breaking down in this process. It becomes too personal; it becomes too mean.”

Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) colleagues criticized him for saying on Tuesday that Hagel may have received money from foreign countries like Saudi Arabia or North Korea, suggesting some form of treasonous impropriety. “Senator Cruz has gone over the line,” Sen Bill Nelson (D-FL) shot back at Cruz. “He basically has impugned the patriotism of the nominee.” Sen. John McCain added: “I just want to make it clear. Senator Hagel is an honorable man. He has served his country and no one on this committee at any time should impugn his character or his integrity.”

Republicans have forced a 60-vote threshold on Hagel, the first time in history for a Defense Secretary nominee. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the vote will take place on Friday.

In other news:

  • A vote on the nomination of John Brennan has been postponed due to Senators’ demands that the Obama administration provide more information about its drone program against suspected terrorists. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said he is prepared to place a “hold” on Brennan’s nomination.
  • The Washington Post reports: Iran recently sought to acquire tens of thousands of highly specialized magnets used in centrifuge machines, according to experts and diplomats, a sign that the country may be planning a major expansion of its nuclear program that could shorten the path to an atomic weapons capability.
  • Reuters reports: Turkey has drafted changes to the penal code, narrowing the definition of terrorist propaganda in a step to boost freedom of expression in line with EU demands and potentially encourage a fledgling peace process with a jailed Kurdish militant leader.