Foreign and Defense Policy, Defense

The unprecedented and Chuck Hagel

Records from John Bolton's UN ambassador confirmation hearings kept stored at AEI. If stacked on top of one another, they would reach well above 5 feet.

Records from John Bolton's UN ambassador confirmation hearings kept stored at AEI. If stacked on top of one another, they would reach well above 5 feet.

The Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee is poised to force a committee vote on Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense tomorrow despite outstanding questions from Republican members regarding Hagel’s finances, speeches, receipt of foreign payments. Chairman Levin and other Democrats have decried the “unprecedented” nature of the requests. Unprecedented? Not really.

Levin and others, Vice President Biden included, have moaned over both the number and nature of the questions to Hagel. Well, perhaps by this Armed Services Committee, with this composition, under this chairman. But unprecedented? Hardly. Consider a nomination about which I have some knowledge, that of John Bolton to be the PermRep (ambassador) to the United Nations in 2005. There are two full file drawers upstairs from my office with some of the records of that nomination (pictured above). Questions for the record? I can’t count how many, but the files for them are more than five feet high, stacked. Sworn and transcribed committee interviews of individuals inside and outside government? Twenty-nine. Questions that many would consider inappropriate, including regarding conversations with then Secretary Rice, intra-departmental consultations, questions about recommendations to the Secretary or President, questions about decisions regarding participation in delegations, questions about public appearances at conferences, speeches before think tank conferences, the texts and drafts of speeches, reporting cables on Iran negotiations, frequency of communication with his supervisor, calendar entries to confirm meeting times, substantial and intrusive document requests and more. Questions bearing no relationship to Bolton’s qualifications to be U.N. PermRep? Here are a few:

  • Was he deposed in the Valerie Plame case? Nope.
  • How about in Democratic National Committee v Federal Election Commission? Nope.

Questions about foreign payments to Bolton or think tanks with which he was affiliated?

  •  “As Vice President of the American Enterprise Institute or as a member of the board of directors of the Project for a New American Century, have you been involved in fundraising or contracting…?”
  • “During your tenure as President of the National Policy Forum, the NPF received a contribution […] from the Pacific Cultural Foundation…”

Questions about ancient history?

  • “Did you file false and misleading affidavits with Lawrence Walsh, Special Prosecutor in the Iran-Contra case?”  (Kids, ask your parents.)  Bolton’s answer: “I filed no affidavits.”
  • “What post –employment restrictions applied to you as a former General Counsel of USAID?”  (He was at AID 1981-2)

From whom did most of these questions come? Then senators Joe Biden and John Kerry.

Now I’ll say this: John Bolton is meticulous. Hagel, who has “lost”, “never had” and “has no knowledge of” much of what he has done over the last few years, is clearly, er, not. But much as he claimed not to have wanted the SecDef position (despite having lobbied for it using an actual lobbying firm), suggesting that he gave most of his speeches extemporaneously or from notes is, simply, incredible.

The Senate is well within its rights to ask for every document Hagel has ever touched, every speech he has ever given and every donation he ever solicited. They’ve done it before, they’ll do it again, and if he doesn’t want to comply, then he shouldn’t have lobbied to become a member of Barack Obama’s cabinet.

4 thoughts on “The unprecedented and Chuck Hagel

  1. Does Ms. Pletka know how to read and comprehend simple English at the grade school level? She writes:

    “But much as [Hagel] claimed not to have wanted the SecDef position (despite having lobbied for it using an actual lobbying firm)…”

    The plain meaning of the above text is that Hagel hired a lobbying firm to seek the position of Secretary of Defense. However, the source linked to from the last three words above clearly says, “Foreign Policy reports that the Podesta Group ‘is channeling as much as $35,000 to sponsor Mike Allen’s Playbook as it lobbies for the nomination of Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense.’”

    I was not aware that Chuck Hagel had a nickname of “The Podesta Group”. But maybe Ms. Pletka meant to say that he’s paying The Podesta Group to lobby? The link further says, “The Bipartisan Group, an association advocating Hagel’s nomination, hired the Podesta Group”.

    Got that? The Podesta Group was hired not by Hagel, but The Bipartisan Group. And nowhere in the remainder of that link does it say that Chuck Hagel is a member of said Bipartisan Group. In other words, the article Ms. Pletka claims as her source that Hagel himself used a lobbying firm does not provide any support for her claim.

    • To Michael Stein,

      The words by Ms. Pletka are “using an actual lobbying firm”. Those words do not include “paying for a lobbying firm”.

      You are saying that Hagel can’t have used a lobbying firm unless he paid for it. Did Hagel refuse the actions of the lobbying firm, and refuse to meet with them? Was he lobbied-for against his will?

      • @Andrew_M_Garland: You are correct that “using an actual lobbying firm” does not necessarily mean that he is funding it. However, by the ordinary rules of language it does mean that at the very least he took some active role. Ms. Pletka’s supposed source does not even say that. It does not even say he was aware of the intentions of the Bipartisan Group to hire an actual lobbying firm before the fact. Even if we were to pretend – contrary to honest use of language – that Hagel’s failure to object even _after_ the fact means he was using the lobbying firm, Ms. Pletka’s supposed source does not even say that he was aware _at any time_ of the use of the Podesta Group! Nor does it say that he met with them. Unless you have a different source that does provide credible evidence of such, you are merely engaging in conjecture.

        What you further fail to understand is that in this case, it is irrelevant whether Hagel did or did not meet with someone from the Podesta Group, or whether Hagel was aware at any time that “an actual lobbying firm” was hired. The issue is simply this: Ms. Pletka insinuated that a particular source provided evidence for her claim. When properly read, however, her supposed source did not in fact provide a scintilla of evidence that Hagel himself knew anything at any time about the Podesta Group. Making a claim of fact without proper evidence is a journalistic sin whether or not the claim turns out to be true.

  2. Hagel is unqualified but Bolton is the biggest tool on the planet. There is no comparison, and I say this as gently as I possibly can.

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