Bauer: Obama’s bad boys club
President Obama’s taking heat for the lack of sexual and ethnic diversity in his second term cabinet. He’s picking a lot of white males, liberals grumble. The media laments that Obama’s cabinet is shaping up to be a “boys’ club.”
But it’s the stunning lack of ideological diversity that’s the real problem with his choices. They all seem committed to diminishing America’s standing at home and abroad.
John Kerry, Obama’s choice for Secretary of State, is well known to most Americans. One of the more worrying aspects of Kerry’s long foreign policy resume is his past support for Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Kerry saw him as a potential reformer, and once said, “President Assad has been very generous with me in terms of the discussions we have had. …So my judge is that Syria will move, Syria will change, as it embraces a legitimate relationship with the United States and the West.” Kerry didn’t say this in the early 2000s. He said in 2011.
Kerry has long supported using diplomacy to push for climate change legislation. He once compared the threat posed by climate change to the threat posed by Iran. We can expect climate change to be a significant part of Obama and Kerry’s diplomatic agenda.
Obama selected counterterrorism advisor John Brennan to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Brennan has had a difficult time identifying America’s enemies. He once claimed that “jihad” is a peaceful term and a “legitimate tenet of Islam.” And in a 2010 speech, he referred to Jerusalem by its Arabic name, “Al Quds,” no doubt sending a message of sympathy to the jihadists who want the capital for their own.
Then there’s Republican former Senator Chuck Hagel, whom Obama nominated to be Secretary of Defense.
Hagel became a media favorite during the end of his Senate tenure for constantly criticizing his party. In the middle of the Bush administration he complained to the media about the Republican Party’s “perception problem around the country, that we are a narrower-gauged party, that we are less tolerant.”
He once told reporters that the GOP “should be anchored with a philosophy about government” and not “a philosophy about morals.”
The media ate it up, of course, and Hagel soon became a favorite of many liberals, including Obama, which helps explain his nomination.
Hagel’s foreign policy views are well outside the American mainstream. When Hagel ran the USO, he fought bitterly to shut down its post in Haifa, reportedly saying, “Let the Jews pay for it.” In 2009, Hagel signed a letter urging Obama to negotiate with Hamas, the terrorist organization now terrorizing Israel. Hagel has accused the “Jewish lobby” of “intimidating a lot of people.”
Like Obama, Hagel sees diplomacy as the best option in Iran, but Hagel even opposes sanctions against the Islamic Republic. And he became a vociferous opponent of the Iraq war just when the troop surge was starting to work.
The Washington Post editorial board noted that Hagel’s foreign policy views are to the left of Obama’s. Hagel has indicated he has no problem with deep Defense cuts, which outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called “devastating.”
The conventional wisdom says that Kerry and Hagel will bring credibility to Obama’s cabinet because both served honorably in the Vietnam War. But both later repudiated America’s efforts there.
Kerry made a name for himself by being the first Vietnam vet to testify against the war, accusing fellow soldiers of war crimes. Hagel, meanwhile, has said he came to see the war as an act of “dishonesty.”
Obama’s foreign policy team is sending a clear message the he intends to downsize not just the military’s budget but also America’s moral presence in the world. After all, to the Obama left, American is the problem.
Late last week, Obama nominated White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew to succeed Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary.
As the president’s budget director and chief of staff, Lew spent Obama’s first term repeatedly claiming that Obama’s budget would not add to the federal government’s debt.
Unlike Geithner, Lew comes from the Democratic Party’s liberal wing, and during past debt and budget negotiations has been unwilling to compromise on virtually anything. Lew is the Obama official congressional Republicans will have to negotiate with on the budget, sequestration and the debt-ceiling.
As bad as these cabinet picks are, we can only hope Obama has a few more selections to make. So far, however, Obama’s worst first term cabinet members, Attorney General Eric Holder and Energy Secretary Steven Chu, are staying put.
Obama’s cabinet choices are all Obamabots, and they make clear he has no intention to tack to the political center in his second term, as many voters thought he might. As the Washington Post put it, “If the first term Cabinet was defined by the ‘Team of Rivals’ idea, the second term Cabinet looks more like a ‘Team of Allies.’ The Post’s Chris Chillizza continued that his Cabinet choices make clear that “his days of trying to please Republicans are largely over.” (When were those days, anyway? I must have been out of town.)
A Gallup poll last week found that 77 percent of Americans feel Washington is broken, and that “the way politics works in Washington these days is causing serious harm to the United States.”
Obama’s unwillingness to work with Republicans has surely contributed to these negative feelings. And his cabinet nominations make clear that he is more interested in winning than he is in finding common ground.
Presidents have the right to nominate their own cabinet secretaries. But their nominees don’t have a right to confirmation. Senators have a constitutional duty to advise and consent to the appointment of all Cabinet officials. They should take that duty seriously.