The disgruntlement, the sweater-vest–tell me he doesn't just look like somebody's grandpa.

See, I almost thought I'd be able to get through a William Galston post without reading something that bugged me, and that's clearly my problem. There is actually a good point in there about why Kerry might not make an ideal Defense Secretary, but this is damn dumb:

Besides, the president might consider using this appointment to broaden support for policies—such as drawing down forces in Afghanistan and scaling the defense budget to fiscal reality—that will fare better if pursued with a measure of bipartisanship. During his second term, Bill Clinton selected William Cohen as his secretary of defense, a choice that worked reasonably well in both policy and political terms. Either Joe Lieberman or Chuck Hagel might fill the bill, even though neither has much experience managing huge, complex institutions like the Pentagon, and Lieberman might find it challenging to hew to the president’s views after going his own way for so long.

I think he's just fucking with us now. Seriously, does he really think that Barack Obama is going to appoint Joe Lieberman to anything? Hagel isn't a much better choice, at least for this job. I know some people give him points for his hesitancy with respect to the surge and voicing reservations about the Iraq War earlier, but let's not forget he was wrong on pretty much everything prior to the surge. I understand that Hagel has some sort of talismanic pull for the press and a lot of other establishment figures, but Obama has done the wise thing by putting him on an obscure executive-branch panel that has no real power. Keeps him on board without rewarding him for, frankly, not all that much. Just about the right amount of patronage in exchange for his endorsement.

What's bothersome is that this sort of talk came up in 2008 and I thought it was over with. The idea of appointing a new Republican Secretary of Defense sends the message that Democrats can't defend the country by themselves, and since the Republican reputation for competence on foreign policy and national security hasn't been lower since before World War II, there is no political reason to make such an appointment. It made sense for Obama to retain Gates at the onset of his Administration as an attempt to consolidate the tradition of foreign policy realism behind him, and to deflect at least some partisan blows on war stuff. That is now done, and now nearly every Republican is committed to some form of Santorum-style foreign policy hyperventilation, so there's no need to offer jobs to people like Chuck fucking Hagel. I'm generally against bipartisan cabinet or high-level appointments unless there's a very specific case behind them, one better than "it shows bipartisanship." Huntsman was good as Ambassador to China because he knew China expertly, for example, and it wrecked his presidential chances. And I tend to think that Reagan's appointment of Jeane Kirkpatrick and Bill Bennett to key posts, no matter what I think of them personally, were smart moves because they helped further Reagan's political objectives, bringing in people he wanted under his tent. Aside from offering Susan Collins her choice of executive branch jobs, I'm not sure what Obama could do with these appointments to improve his situation or bolster his standing with key constituencies.


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