At times, you wonder how closely the Senate is paying attention to national security and whether it is exercising its oversight function properly. Just as national security is the primary obligation of the president, so too should the safety and security of the United States take precedence over other matters, or, at the very least, demand careful attention. Without much difficulty, I can come up with six sets of meaty, critical questions that you would think would absorb the Senate, and in particular the relevant oversight committees:
1. If Chuck Hagel made the comment that the State Department is an “adjunct to the Israeli Foreign Minister’s office,” is that grounds for rethinking his nomination? Should Hagel be asked if he said it?
2. President Obama did not talk to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta or the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the night of 9-11-2012. Are you curious what he was doing?
3. John Brennan testified under oath that we “didn’t have anything” on Benghazi terrorism suspect Ali Harzi. There is replete evidence that we knew of his involvement. Should Brennan be recalled to explain his testimony?
4. While under investigation, should Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) assume chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee?
5. If the military was out of the loop on the decision to withdraw 34,000 troops from Afghanistan, is that a problem? Should we find out who came up with that number?
6. And finally, I am having difficulty understanding the logic of Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), who both said Hagel was the worst nominee they’d seen. McCain in particular declared: “Chuck Hagel does not have the qualifications — in the view of many of us, particularly me — to serve. He has no managerial experience. His view of the world is very different. His answers on Iran were troubling. His opposition to the surge, saying it would fail.” So what is the justification for not using the Senate’s rules, including the filibuster, to prevent someone who is incompetent to command our armed forces? Is this less important than Senate “comity”? Even if President Obama nominated him, wouldn’t failure to filibuster constitute a dereliction of your oversight duties? I can understand (sort of) a Democrat who thought he did well enough, but these two senators thought quite the opposite. What is the rationale for letting an unfit nominee obtain a high national security post in a time of war with multiple threats on the horizon? I’m just asking.