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Sunday, December 4, 2016

In a nearly unprecedented move, Senate Republicans prevented a vote on the nomination of former Republican senator Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s choice to replace Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense. A mere 10 days later, more than a dozen Republicans joined with Democrats to end the debate on his nomination, paving the way for his confirmation.

What has the GOP achieved by delaying the former senator from Nebraska’s nomination?

The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin, an outspoken Hagel foil and self-proclaimed “friend of Israel” proclaims, “The Republican Party is rock solid in its support of Israel and determination to prevent Iran from getting a bomb. In order to be confirmed, Hagel had to pretend he was, too.”

So Rubin’s claiming that the filibuster convinced President Obama’s Secretary of Defense to claim the exact same policies the president made a central part of his campaign?

Rubin also credits the campaign against Hagel withstripping the former Army infantryman of “the patina of competence.” Because if you love your country, taking away authority from the man charged with leading the Pentagon is a good thing?

There have been many rationales for opposing Hagel. Republicans first charged that he was homophobic, then anti-Semitic. They accused him of speaking at events in support of a group that doesn’t exist and being endorsed by Louis Farrakhan and Iran.

Texas’ new Republican senator Ted Cruz wrote in Politico, “Hagel’s nomination has been publicly celebrated by the Iranian government — surely an occurrence without precedent for a nominee for Secretary of Defense.”

And, of course, that never really happened — which leads us to what the Republicans actually gained by opposing Chuck Hagel. They reaffirmed the caricature of their party as being so opposed to Obama that they would filibuster themselves if he nominated them. And they introduced America to Ted Cruz.

Cruz, at first, seemed the natural heir to South Carolina Republican senator Jim DeMint, who resigned suddenly last year to lead the Heritage Foundation. But the former Solicitor General of Texas has quickly eclipsed Rand Paul (R-KY) as the poster child for Tea Party paranoia.

Cruz’s willingness to make baseless accusations and cast the pall of treason on any opponent quickly won him comparisons to former senator Joseph McCarthy, who was eventually censured by his colleagues in the 1950s.

These accusations have led to an examination of Cruz’s record that shows that not only is he willing to smear opponents as communists decades after the fall of the Soviet Union — he doesn’t even understand what communist is. Or he doesn’t care.

Cruz is much more interested in making an inflammatory accusation than making an actual point.

That’s what Republicans did to Chuck Hagel. They raised baseless accusations because he was a Republican who was willing to work with President Obama, a Republican who pointed out the obvious about George W. Bush, a Republican who isn’t eager for more wars in the Middle East.

And in doing so, they reminded America why they lost in 2012.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.com

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