Senate majority leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, said on the floor this morning that it's "tragic" Republicans are refusing immediately to accept Chuck Hagel as the next secretary of defense. Some Republicans contend that they need more information on Hagel before voting on his nomination.
"It's tragic that they've decided to filibuster this qualified nominee," said Reid. "It is really unfortunate."
But when a Republican was president, Reid believed that candidates for high-level government positions needed to disclose more information. He believed then that Henry Kissinger should disclose all his foreign backers before joining the commission to examine the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Kissinger declined to disclose, and therefore didn't serve on the commission (a more insignificant posting, by the way, than secretary of defense.
Republicans have asked for similar disclosures from Hagel. But Hagel has demurred, and Reid is standing by the side of President Obama's nominee.
Reid's primary reason for the rush? There's a NATO defense ministers meeting next week in Brussels! It would be, Reid said, "somewhat unusual" for the Americans not to have a defense secretary there, which would be the case if Hagel is not concerned.
But Reid did not mention what would also be somewhat unusual if Hagel were to attend next week's NATO meeting. That is, for the first time in recent memory, Americans would be represented at a meeting like that by a man who has been endorsed by the Iranian foreign ministry .
And that for the first time in recent memory this country would be represented at the Defense Department by a man who agrees that America is "the world's bully," who has previously ruled out leaving all options on the table for dealing with Iran, who has failed to support sanctions against Iran, who has called Iran an "elected" and "legitimate" government, who believes Israel "keep[s] Palestinians caged up like animals," who has said the "Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people" on Capitol Hill, and who has so many views out of the mainstream it is nearly impossible to list them all.
But the premise is actually ludicrous for a very simple reason: Panetta plans to stay on until the next secretary of defense is nominated, and is ready to attend next week's NATO meeting.