President Obama Announces National Security Nominations

Amid Republicans' weeks-long display of sound and fury, President Obama nominated Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense and John Brennan for CIA director.

At the moment, Hagel is being touted as the more controversial nominee by the Republicans. Log Cabin Republicans, who endorsed a virulently anti-gay candidate for President in Mitt Romney, are protesting Hagel's 1998 comments regarding the military's don't ask, don't tell policy, and put up a full page ad in the New York Times today opposing his nomination. On the other hand, neocons are outraged that Hagel isn't completely in the tank to blow up the world to save Israel.

All of this would be comical if it weren't so pathetic. After all, in 2000, Mr. Neocon Bill Kristol thought Hagel would be a perfect running-mate for then-candidate George W. Bush. Now that Hagel is Obama's choice, not so much.

Hero to zero politics at its best. Meanwhile, war hero Max Cleland says they'll quit the posturing and confirm Hagel. As much as I'd like to believe that, I have no confidence in Republicans' ability to scale down their insanity these days. The truth is, they'd oppose anyone Obama nominates, but Hagel scares them most because he's a Republican who isn't a neocon hawk or a policy elite.

John Brennan, on the other hand, is a more troublesome nominee. Salon's Alex Seitz-Wald has a must-read column about why his nomination for CIA is troubling:

In his current job, for example, Brennan has spearheaded some of Obama’s most controversial national security tactics, such as the aggressive escalation of drone strikes and so-called signature strikes, where targets are hit based on incomplete intelligence. He’s also caught flak for claiming drone attacks didn’t result in a “single” civilian death in Pakistan one year and for initially (and erroneously) claiming that Osama Bin Laden “engaged in a firefight” with Navy SEALs during the 2011 raid in which he was killed.

In 2008, liberals and civil libertarians were outraged by the possibility of Brennan heading the CIA. “Appointing Brennan to the CIA does not mean a change from Bush. That was absolutely a critical part of Obama’s message. With Brennan, we get the taint of a Bush and two-facedness of a Clinton,” Andrew Sullivan, then at the Atlantic, wrote at the time.

Four years later, civil liberties have largely disappeared from the range of issues liberals care about. Two weeks ago, the Senate quietly reauthorized the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendment Act — which codifies warrantless wiretapping and email snooping — with little debate and no amendments.

I'm sure the confirmation hearings will be a hoot. Republicans are already on the bizarro train, so it could be entertaining. Or frightening.


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