Eight years is a long time in politics, but you may remember that way back in 2004, Republicans considered John Kerry a wimpy, flip-flopping elitist who had faked his war injuries and betrayed America by coming back from Vietnam and criticizing the war. But today Barack Obama nominated Kerry to be secretary of State, just as one Republican after another begged him to. In contrast, the possibility that Chuck Hagel, once considered among the more conservative Republicans in the Senate (his lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union was a solid 84), might be nominated to be secretary of Defense has the GOP so outraged they have mounted a coordinated campaign to discredit Hagel as an anti-Semite who is also anti-gay (hey, whatever's handy). So what gives?
The answer can be found in that old movie tag line: This time, it's personal. And also next time, and the time after that. You see, Barack Obama wanted his good friend Susan Rice to be Secretary of State, so she had to be stopped. And while Republicans were drumming up phony charges against her, suggesting Kerry as a second choice seemed like a good way to sound reasonable, so that's what they did. As for Hagel, he may be a Republican, but he left the Senate four years ago having angered some of his colleagues by criticizing the war in Iraq (despite having voted for it in the first place), which the rest of them believed was a splendid affair during which nothing had gone wrong in the slightest.
The very fact that Hagel is considering working for Barack Obama marks him as a turncoat, so he too must be stopped. It almost doesn't matter whom he's replaced with, since one scalp per cabinet post seems to be enough. You don't have to be a fan of Hagel to think this is bizarre behavior on the Republicans' part. Perhaps Obama won't tap Hagel, and perhaps Hagel would turn out to be a terrible SecDef if he did. It's difficult to know at this point. But the reason Republicans don't want him starts and ends with the fact that Obama did. Get ready for more silly controversies over the rest of Obama's cabinet picks.
So They Say
"The way he commanded the respect of an entire nation, I think it hinted to me what might be possible in my own life. … May God bless Daniel Inouye and may God grant us more souls like his."
—President Obama, speaking at today’s memorial service for Senator Inouye
Daily Meme: Shoot First ...
- Earlier this week, the NRA broke its conspicuous silence about the Newtown massacre—to say they’d hold a press conference today. They’d have “meaningful” suggestions for preventing such violence, they promised.
- It wasn’t the very best timing, as it turned out. Just moments before the long-awaited presser, the nation’s latest mass killing occurred in Pennsylvania.
- But the show went on. And NRA honcho Wayne LaPierre called for … more guns in schools, wielded by police officers. "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," he said. (Why do bad guys have guns in the first place? LaPierre wasn’t taking questions.)
- He was interrupted twice by protesters—one holding a sign reading, “NRA Killing Our Kids.”
- Au contraire, said LaPierre: The blame lies with video games, Hollywood, and signs proclaiming schools “gun-free zones," and, well, everybody but the NRA.
- Reaction was swift—and not, um, especially positive. Congressman and Senator-elect Chris Murphy, who represents Newtown, tweeted: “Walking out of another funeral and was handed the NRA transcript. The most revolting, tone-deaf statement I've ever seen.”
- Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey found it “beyond belief that following the Newtown tragedy, the National Rifle Association’s leaders want to fill our communities with guns and arm more Americans.”
- Mayor Bloomberg, not surprisingly, was quick to tweet: “Instead of solutions to a problem they have helped create, @NRA offered a paranoid, dystopian vision of a more dangerous and violent America.”
- Andrew Sullivan bundled it together with House Republicans’ Plan B debacle—both demonstrating that “the Republican slide into total epistemic closure and political marginalization has now become a free-fall.”
- Molly Ball notes the NRA’s response was no mistake—the group has its reasons to want to “wear the black hat in the gun debate.”
- The Prospect’s Paul Waldman notes that there’s an upside: The NRA's unrepentant reaction “gave the movement for greater restrictions on guns the biggest favor it could have hoped for.”
What We're Writing
- Jamelle Bouie on the Plan B fiasco and what it says about House Republicans.
- Anna Clark on the GOP's lame-duck madness in Michigan.
What We're Reading
- Molly Ball offers a guide to what the heck happened with John Boehner’s Plan B—and what’s next.
- Jonathan Chait explores why House Republicans “chose chaos.”
- James Surowiecki unpacks the “Medicare Cliff,” noting: “Hand-wringing about Medicare and Social Security going bust allows Republicans, paradoxically, to portray themselves not as opponents of entitlement spending but, rather, as its saviors.”
- Asha Rangappa calls for a national excise tax on guns.
- Read and weep: Slate tallies the gun deaths in America since Newtown.
- Jonathan Alter sums up what’s needed to create real gun control.
- Sean Trende wonks out over the 2012 census population estimates, and what they'll mean politically.
Poll of the Day
Forty-nine percent of Americans now believe that gun control is a higher priority than protecting gun owners’ rights—a 10-point jump, according to Pew, since last spring.