This morning, after security meetings that lasted nearly two weeks, news broke that the President would be announcing the resignation of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. The lone Republican on Obama’s cabinet, Hagel was much closer to the Democrat line especially regarding the Iraq War and American relations with Israel. The major setbacks in Iraq due to clumsy handling of ISIS (or, if you’d rather, a complete failure to deal with ISIS) have brought foreign policy to the forefront – and for that, heads must roll.
There are some who have suggested that Hagel stepping down now is a Presidential move to hurry up and stack the cabinet with far more liberal players prior to the newly Republican Congress being seated in January. And perhaps that is part of it. Given the shellacking Obama took in the recent midterms and the fact that lame duck sessions generally embolden even the most sycophantic members of the press to take potshots at the losing party, he needs as many friendly faces inside the beltway as he can get.
But given Hagel’s outspoken opposition to the Iraq War and efforts since his appointment to shrink both the size and effectiveness of the American military, President Obama may have difficulty finding someone who is more qualified to lead the Defense Department down its current path of voluntary emasculation. Unless he simply wants to make a show of power to remind Republicans that he still wields power over a few of them, replacing Hagel with a liberal Democrat will likely have very little measurable effect on policy.
And if the Republicans are paying attention, the President has handed them a very real opportunity to exercise the power that they hold as members of Congress. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has already issued a call to arms of sorts, asking that Republicans block all non-security appointments made by the President during the lame duck session.
Blocking those appointments, even for a short time, could push a confirmation hearing into the new year – which would force President Obama to get his appointments past a much less friendly Congress.
When the President appoints a successor to Hagel, provided the choice is questionable or obviously bad (and given this President’s track record, that may be a safe assumption), it is incumbent upon the current Congress to stand in the way. Of course, there will be those who call them “obstructionists,” but too often we forget that obstruction is not always bad. True, sometimes obstructions keep you from accomplishing tasks or from making progress. But sometimes obstructions prevent your car from getting barreled into by a train.
And what everyone seems to be forgetting is that all three branches of government were designed to be obstructions to one another. If they were not, the powers would not be balanced and we would not have a republic.
So call your Senators and Congressmen. Support Senator Ted Cruz. Be part of the obstruction. And let’s see if we can keep this republic.