Monday night on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” host Rachel Maddow discussed the fact that certain Bush-era foreign policy officials apparently have yet to realize that they have been completely discredited. Now, many of them are lining up to criticize President Barack Obama’s nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) as for Secretary of Defense. Maddow’s guest, Noah Shachtman of Wired magazine, argued that since Obama is essentially a Republican in matters of foreign policy, then the right’s opposition to Hagel is based purely in partisan spite against the president.
During his eight years in office, Maddow said, President George W. Bush asserted heretofore unknown executive powers. He based his belief in his own power on the Unitary Executive Theory, which holds that the president of the U.S. exerts absolute control over the executive branch of the government.
The enforcer of this theory of executive power was Vice President Dick Cheney and his right hand man was Cheney’s top lawyer David Addington. It was Addington who paved the way legally for torture of “terror suspects,” for indefinite detentions as at Guantanamo and a host of other measures that on their face, appear to undermine any checks and balances on the executive branch. Addington ultimately became known by the sobriquet, “Cheney’s Cheney.”
Now, Addington works at the Heritage Foundation, one of DC’s well-funded right-wing think tanks. He’s up for a big promotion there, said Maddow. On Feb. 1, he rises to the rank of Director of Heritage’s Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, so that he can lead studies into how President Barack Obama currently has too much executive power.
“But hey, it appears to be ‘new project season’ in Washington,” Maddow said. “If you are of a certain political persuasion, being wrong never lasts long.”
She then ran video of the Weekly Standard‘s Bill Kristol from March of 2003 saying that the Iraq War was going to last two months at the most.
“Now, Bill Kristol, a living breathing symbol of ‘wrong about national security,'” she said, “Mr. Kristol has a fresh deal going. Now, his new project is that he wants to stop the nomination of former Sen. Hagel as Secretary of Defense.”
And even though Kristol was once a Hagel booster, promoting him as a potential vice presidential running mate for George W. Bush in 2000, Kristol now wants to block Hagel’s nomination at all costs.
“Oh, Sen. Hagel,” Maddow said, “may you always be blessed with comically non-self-aware enemies. It’s not every Secretary of Defense nominee whose foes are their own punchlines.”
The opposition on the right has been so vehement and so vituperative that now some on the left who initially opposed Hagel’s nomination are coming around to supporting him. Maddow asked the question of whether having the right enemies can override all other objections to someone’s nomination.
Maddow was joined by Noah Shachtman, an editor at Wired magazine, and contributor to Wired‘s “Danger Room” blog.
She asked Shachtman if Republicans didn’t all toe the line and oppose Hagel on a purely partisan basis, would Democrats be the ones objecting vociferously to his appointment.
Shachtman replied that Hagel is not progressive. He’s “not even a little bit progressive,” he said. Hegel, he said, voted with the Bush-era Republican caucus on warrantless wiretapping, on LGBT issues and a host of other important issues, so if the right wasn’t currently pitching an anti-Hagel tantrum, liberals would absolutely oppose him.
“But now this has happened,” he said. “Battle lines have been drawn.”
Maddow pointed out that much of the resistance from the left toward Hagel so far has been based on his anti-LGBT comments about Ambassador James Hormel, who was appointed by President Clinton to serve as the country’s first openly gay ambassador. However, she said, after initially supporting the Iraq War, Hegel come out against it. Also, he has proposed getting out of Afghanistan faster than we already are.
Shachtman said that ultimately, Hagel is an old-school Republican on foreign policy, but then, he said, so is President Obama for all intents and purposes. “Intervene where you can and don’t when you can’t” is the driving directive of Obama’s foreign policy agenda, which Shachtman sees as the same as Hagel’s.
Maddow opined that if proposed Defense Department budget cuts go through, it might be politically smarter to have a Republican at the helm of the Pentagon because any Democrat trying to cut defense spending is going to be called a “wuss.”
“Hmmmmm,” said Shachtman, “Not buying it.”
He said that given that Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter is a Democrat, and has already been a well-received voice in favor of cutbacks, then the charge of “wussification” doesn’t really hold water. He also noted that Hagel’s Republicanism is absolutely not currently buying him any credibility with the right, so there’s no reason to believe that they would change their tune once he was confirmed.
Watch the video, embedded via MSNBC, below: