Now that Chuck Hagel is on his way out as Defense Secretary, maybe we can revisit the whole question of why our New Democratic heroes are so fond of appointing Republicans to this post. It’s a really bad idea from a political standpoint. It implies that Republicans are better when it comes to the art of war. This is totally refuted by looking at how Republicans actually do manage our wars. But the people can be forgiven if they think, “Well even Democratic presidents think Republicans are best for the job; Republicans must really be better than Democrats!”
This has been going on for a while. The Secretary of Defense for Bill Clinton’s entire second term was a Republican, William Cohen. And then when Obama came into office, he just couldn’t find a capable Democrat, so he stuck with Bush’s choice, Robert Gates. (Sadly, that was not the only way that Obama followed the lead of Bush.) After leaving office, he used the opportunity to snipe at the administration. Then Obama picked conservative Democrat Leon Panetta for the job. He stayed a short period of time before leaving office so he too could snipe at the administration. So Obama put Hagel in the position, again, saying to the world that Democrats know nothing about war and must depend upon Republicans. I can’t wait for Hagel’s book where he snipes at the administration.
As I wrote at the time of Hagel’s nomination, “Obama cares more about his legacy than he does the legacy of his party.” It’s always the same with the New Democrats. Their constituencies are not, you know, the people who voted for them. Those silly people probably think that electing a Democrat means they would get a Democratic cabinet and liberal governance. But instead, Obama and company care about the kind of Very Serious People that brought us the DLC of the 1990s and “third way” today. Obama explicitly wanted a “team of rivals” like Lincoln had. (Apparently, Obama had read a book.) In his immature way, Obama seemed to think that this is what made Lincoln great. Forget all the Civil War and slavery stuff. People remember Lincoln because he made William Seward his Secretary of State.
So the question is naturally raised, “Could we have a Democratic Defense Secretary now?” And I really don’t know. Will the Senate be willing to confirm any Obama appointment? I’m really not sure. But it would be nice if Obama at least was willing to nominate a Democrat. But he might try to nominate another Republican, hoping to woo Republican support. But that didn’t go all that well last time. Not that it would stop Obama. Constantly hoping that the Republicans will behave is one of his main strategies.
If the people choose a Republican President in 2016, maybe it won’t be that bad. There is, at least, a kind of truth in advertising. We can depend that at least his cabinet will be filled with Republicans. And if there is any exception, it will be something low-profile like the Secretary of Transportation. Maybe after a few elections like that the New Democrats will learn that their economic conservatism, with its “split the difference” on everything else, is not popular. Regardless, in the distant future, historians will not write Team of Rivals about Obama; they will write, “Opportunity Squandered.”