Slow news week last week. A relative (and rare) calm before the State of the Union tomorrow night.
Hagel and Brennan
Republicans are weak on the confirmations of Hagel and Brennan. Lindsey Graham on Face the Nation yesterday said he intends to somehow block a confirmation vote of Hagel until he gets more information on Benghazi. I’m of two minds on this. The time for outrage on this is passed. The Benghazi attack occurred two months before a presidential election and the people decided to give the president a pass. I do tend to think the president is “disengaged,” as Graham says. But unless you have a broad swell of support at least among other Republicans, Graham is mostly just providing the president and Democrats evidence for their supposition that the GOP is fractured. Which lends support to the argument that Graham is doing this for personal political reasons, to convince his constituents in his upcoming 2014 campaign that he’s conservative enough.
On the other hand, I wonder how much deference to nominees is appropriate. When it comes to judicial nominations, for example, it’s been accepted that contested aggressive confirmation hearings are justified given that Supreme Court sessions have become, in effect, annual constitutional conventions. Given the great power the Supreme Court has arrogated to itself in the past several decades, it’s understandable and even appropriate that the confirmation process—one of the only meaningful democratic checks on the Court—has grown some sharp teeth.
The power and significance of the U.S. military also has swelled greatly in modern times. Perhaps more resistance and skepticism is warranted in the confirmation process.
John Eastman says the drones memo was improperly classified because it did not contain any tactical information. The real reason it was held back may be because the administration is relying on many of the same grounds cited in the Bush memos, which then-Senator Obama criticized.
No matter; the public loves drones.
State of the Union
Republicans are bracing for one of the most partisan State of the Union addresses of this partisan president’s administration. Obama is set to focus on the economy, and likely will employ his familiar device of using strawmen and hyperbole to demonize his opponents. Last week, he told Democrats that Republicans’ position is that “the only way to replace it now is for us to cut Social Security, cut Medicare and not close a single loophole.” Who is saying that? Is there any elected Republican in Congress—or anywhere else—who says this?
I’ll be gritting my way through the president’s address Tuesday night awaiting Marco Rubio’s response. To say that Sen. Rubio is facing high expectations may be a gross understatement after last week:
One of the memes last week was that the GOP doesn’t just need better messaging, it needs a new message. From my perspective, this meme cannot survive without referencing leaders who badly fumble the GOP message, proving the point that the problems is in the messengers, not the message. Rubio is far and away the most thoughtful and articulate conservative the party has seen in a very long time. The juxtaposition of Rubio’s response to what is expected to be Obama’s most aggressive and progressive SOTU address will be a thing to behold.