More Sympathy for Hagel in NY Times; GOP 'Further Strain Partisan Tensions' by Unprecedented (?) Filibuster

Jeremy Peters reported on Friday's front page on the surprise failure to advance the nomination of Obama's nominee for secretary of defense, former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel: "G.O.P. Blocks Vote on Hagel In the Senate." Once again, the New York Times placed the battle in the context of President Obama being unfairly delayed assembling his national security team while straining "partisan tensions." The paper also downplayed or ignored conservative concerns over Hagel's poor performance in congressional hearings and his hostile comments regarding Israel and the "Jewish lobby."

Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked President Obama’s nominee to lead the Pentagon in a defiant move likely to further strain partisan tensions while preventing the White House, at least temporarily, from assembling its second-term national security team.

In a result that broke down almost strictly along party lines, Democratic senators could not muster the support to advance the nomination of Chuck Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, to a final vote. The vote was 58 to 40, falling short of the 60 that were needed.

Democrats vowed to try again to resuscitate the nomination of Mr. Hagel, a decorated Vietnam veteran, when the Senate returns from recess in 10 days. Several Republicans who voted against Mr. Hagel said they would not block a final vote.

Democrats accused the opponents of mounting the first-ever filibuster against a Pentagon chief for their own political purposes.

“Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, it gets worse,” said Senator Harry Reidof Nevada, the majority leader. “I guess to be able to run for the Senate as a Republican in most places of the country, you need to have a résumé that says, ‘I helped filibuster one of the president’s nominees.' ”

Peters went granular to try and represent the Republican action as historically unique.

The vote represented the first time in history that the Senate has required that a nominee for secretary of defense clear the 60-vote hurdle before a final, simple majority vote. Republicans, who took the extraordinary step of rebuffing their former colleague and fellow party member, insisted that Democrats were trying to rush a vote on a crucial cabinet position that deserved more consideration.

Specifying "secretary of defense" and "60-vote hurdle" enables Peters to ignore what Will Bennett in The Hill pointed out: the long history of mostly Democratic-led filibusters against Republican cabinet appointments.

In contrast, the Times' tone was far less hostile to a Democratic-led filibuster against the liberal-loathed John Bolton as U.N. ambassador in June 2005. In that case, Sheryl Gay Stolberg described the back and forth in a neutral way: "For the second time in a month, Senate Democrats blocked a vote on Monday evening on the nomination of John R. Bolton to be ambassador to the United Nations, raising the possibility that President Bush will circumvent the confirmation process and appoint Mr. Bolton when Congress recesses."

Peters appeared to take the White House side that the GOP was being irresponsible.

In a statement after Thursday’s vote, the White House accused Republicans of putting “political posturing ahead of our nation’s security.” It added that there were serious matters at hand: “We have 66,000 men and women deployed in Afghanistan, and we need our new secretary of defense to be a part of significant decisions about how we bring that war to a responsible end.”


Senator Barbara Boxer of California, summing up Democrats’ frustrations, implored her Republican colleagues, “What more are you trying to get out of this?”