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Transition 2012

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What They’re Saying: The Fiscal Cliff and Obama’s Nominations

by Newsteam Staff
December 14, 2012

Senator Hagel speaks during a news conference in Omaha March 12, 2007. (Dave Kaup/Courtesy Reuters) Senator Hagel speaks during a news conference in Omaha March 12, 2007. (Dave Kaup/Courtesy Reuters)


On the Fiscal Cliff

Hal Movius, a social psychologist specializing in negotiation and visiting professor at the Darden Graduate School of Business, writes in TIME that while the fiscal cliff negotiations are often cast as a two-party conflict between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, the situation is “quite different”:

[What’s going on is] more like an obstacle course for which Boehner and Obama are leading fractious teams. Because the parties, particularly the GOP, are divided internally, negotiations within each party are apt to be at least as difficult and time consuming as those across the aisle. Leaders on both sides will have to persuade majorities to live with trades that deliver something important in exchange for concessions on other issues (trading tax increases for a commitment to entitlement reform, for example).

In Politico, Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen posit that there is actually more policy agreement in Washington than people admit:

The us-against-them dynamic has made the 2012 campaign, the current fiscal cliff debate, and many of the participants in both seem small. What is striking, though, is that if you put everyone from President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin to House Speaker John Boehner and Portman on truth serum, they basically agree: Washington could set the economy on a very safe course, if not on fire, through a half-dozen policies that are not partisan.

Vandehei and Allen detail a few of these policies, including immigration reform, simplification of the tax code, and entitlement reform.

On Obama’s Nominations

Joanthan Broder writes in Roll Call that the Senate could become more hostile toward Obama’s foreign policy initiatives if Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) leaves the Foreign Relations Committee to become secretary of state. If Kerry leaves, the chairmanship would likely go to Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, and:

The difference in style between Kerry and Menendez couldn’t be greater. The patrician Kerry is known for his diplomatic skills, his long, detailed speeches, and his loyalty to Obama on foreign policy issues. Menendez, the only Hispanic Democrat in the Senate, is blunt and an aggressive interrogator during hearings. He also doesn’t mind going against the administration, as he has done over the past year in pushing — and winning — ever tougher sanctions against Iran.

Other changes that will affect the makeup of the committee include the departure of ranking Republican Richard Lugar of Indiana and the possible addition of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

Former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel has become Obama’s top choice for secretary of defense, reports Bloomberg. In Politico, Joshua Keating examines whether appointing Hagel would result in a shift in Iran policy compared to what has happened under Defense Secretary Leon Panetta:

Hagel called for direct talks with Iran during the closing years of the Bush administration — as did Obama. He now says Iran’s nukes pose a serious threat but that the GOP isn’t fully considering the consequences of military action — as do Obama and Panetta. If there’s a “signal” being sent, it’s that the administration is sticking with the plan on Iran.

Also in Politico, Stephen M. Walt refers to Hagel as “a principled, intelligent and patriotic American who believes that U.S. foreign and defense policy should serve the national interest,” and lists five reasons why he believes Obama should nominate him.

In the Daily Beast, Eli Lake writes that while Hagel has often angered his own party, “Hagel’s real opposition will likely come from the pro-Israel lobby in Washington.”

In the past, Hagel has even garnered opposition from pro-Israel Democrats who have defended Obama’s Israel record. Ira Forman, who was in charge of the Obama reelection campaign’s outreach to Jewish voters, said in 2009—after Hagel was named co-chairman of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board—that he would have opposed Hagel’s nomination for a more substantive position.

In Foreign Policy, Daniel W. Drezner gives his thoughts on Obama’s likely cabinet picks. One general conclusion he draws is that:

The changing norms of the Senate suggest the disturbing possibility that the only cabinet nominees who can sail through are…. former senators.  This is bad, bad, bad, bad, and bad for foreign policy.  Cabinet officers are administrators and managers.  Most senators haven’t managed anything bigger than a legislative office.  This isn’t to say that all of them will do a bad job… but confidence is not high.  Narrowing the candidate pool like this harms the national interest.

 –Contributing Editor Kirsti Itameri

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