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Will Leon Panetta Ever Get His Vacation?

Opponents of the Hagel nomination write President Obama a letter

Adam Chandler
February 21, 2013

With any luck, we are but a mere 120 hours away from knowing how members of the United States Senate actually feel about their former colleague and current Secretary of Defense nominee Charles Timothy Hagel. Until then, the battle against him will continue to rage with partisan flair until the final gavel drops and there will be world peace.

Today’s development is one of the more tame and civil happenings yet: 15 Republican senators have signed a letter to President Obama in which they urge him to withdraw Hagel as the nominee to replace Leon Panetta at the Pentagon. From the letter:

“Over the last half-century, no secretary of defense has been confirmed and taken office with more than three senators voting against him,” they wrote. “The occupant of this critical office should be someone whose candidacy is neither controversial or divisive.”

Signing the letter were John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican; Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott of South Carolina; Roger Wicker of Mississippi; David Vitter of Louisiana; Ted Cruz of Texas; Mike Lee of Utah; Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania; Marco Rubio of Florida; Dan Coats of Indiana; Ron Johnson of Wisconsin; James E. Risch of Idaho; John Barrasso of Wyoming; and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

Members of the group cited a litany of objections, including Mr. Hagel’s unimpressive showing at his confirmation hearing, which drew criticism from members of both parties, and what they said was his “dangerous” posture toward dealing with Iran.

Of course, they’ve got a point, but were these concerns actually enough to derail the nomination, the plug would have been pulled a while ago. Instead, I’m picturing Leon Panetta sitting dejectedly in his office, daydreaming of himself in a chair poolside in Cabo, sipping a Tiki drink out of a coconut shell in a straw hat with some zinc-oxide sunscreen on his nose. A waitress with a tray of fresh cracked crab ambles over and then he hears a faraway voice: Are you for the afternoon intelligence briefing, Secretary Panetta?

He shakes his head awake and frowns. Poor guy.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.

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