Gene Healy observes that the Armed Services Committee ignored its oversight responsibilities last week:
Eight hours of questioning by the Senate Armed Services Committee allowed plenty of bloviating, grandstanding and browbeating — but, apparently, not enough time for serious deliberation over key policy questions facing any new Pentagon chief.
On Thursday, Buzzfeed.com tallied up the issues the committee prioritized. In a hearing transcript running to nearly 60,000 words, the word “drone” doesn’t show up even once.
Regardless of what one thinks about Hagel’s nomination, this is what should bother everyone about the spectacle that unfolded last Thursday. Committee members had the opportunity to scrutinize the administration’s conduct of an ongoing foreign war, its use of drones, and its handling of relationships with allies and clients. All of this received cursory treatment when it was brought up at all. Israel received far more attention from members of both parties than the country where U.S. soldiers are still fighting. As Brandon Friedman put it:
It’s difficult to interpret this message any other way: the Senate Armed Services Committee—particularly its Republican membership—is more concerned with the apparent American defense secretary’s relationship with Israel than with the future of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the fate of U.S. troops engaged in both locations.
No matter what your views on Israel or the U.S.-Israel relationship are, that reflects a bizarre and dangerous set of priorities.
A semi-competent opposition would have used the occasion for oversight instead of wasting time parsing old reports and Al Jazeera interviews to try to catch Hagel in an ideological error. A sane confirmation process would have required that almost all of the committee’s time be spent finding out how well the nominee understood issues relevant to the department he would be managing. Instead, the vast majority of the committee’s time was wasted on ideological litmus tests that served no useful purpose, and the interests of the American public, our military, and the country were all short-changed in the process.