The conventional wisdom is that Barack Obama dodged a politically perilous "bullet" when he declined to nominate Susan Rice as the next Secretary of State. Had he done so, the President would have provided his critics a high-profile platform for exposing and critiquing his administration's conduct with respect to Benghazigate and the larger, dangerous practice of "engaging" Islamists, of which it was a particularly dismal example.
Yet, President Obama is reportedly intent on creating what may prove to be a similar "teachable moment" by nominating former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel to replace Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense. Sen. Hagel has been an outspoken champion of controversial and even radical policies firmly embraced by Mr. Obama during his first administration. Worse yet, they are likely to be priorities for his second term now that the President has, as he put it in his overheard side-bar with Russia's Dmitri Medvedev last March, "more flexibility."
In the event Barack Obama actually taps the former Nebraska senator, he will be inviting the sort of national debate that has long been needed, but generally missing, about his administration's positions in several areas vital to U.S. security. As there is no evident daylight between Sen. Hagel's views and those of this president, the opportunity must be seized to expose both. Consider several topics that cry out for such high-profile, critical examination:
• A Pentagon chief who favors U.S. disarmament? As Adam Kredo of the Washington Free Beacon has reported, Sen. Hagel believes that, "The Defense Department, I think, in many ways has been bloated. So I think the Pentagonneeds to be pared down." Do Republican senators want a former colleague to give political cover to President Obama's insistence that the United States use reductions in defense spending as a source of half the revenue given up pursuant to the Budget Control Act of 2011 - even though the Pentagon receives only twenty-percent of federal expenditures? Do they want thus to be implicated in the inevitable, attendant dismantling of the sort of freedom-protecting presence the American military has had around the globe since the end of World War II, its ability to project power and its vital modernization programs? [While Mr. Hagel has correctly observed that "defense is not a jobs program," he - like President Obama - seems indifferent to a harsh reality: Such draconian cuts in defense expenditures will have an adverse impact on employment. In fact, an estimated one million jobs in the defense sector will shortly be lost as a result of the now-imminent, so-called "sequestration" round of budget reductions. Do Republican senators share this indifference?]
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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