The Cycle | February 26, 2013
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>>> groundhog day february 2nd . will have an early spring. if you're wondering. but today is groundhog day in washington , at least that's how leon panetta describes the succession of getting his successor confirmed. con fired cleared a test vote today. same vote he failed two weeks ago. the next vote could come next hour. panetta had two farewell parties and waiting out the last hours of the tenure at the walnut farm in california. hagel , meanwhile, already working out of the pentagon for weeks preparing for the transition and first battle will be a budget war. the dod is faced with cuts even in the next seven months alone of $43 billion. cuts to training, grounded planes, docked warships. all things the president referred to today at a shipyard.
>> main reason i'm here is to call attention to the important work you're doing on behalf of the nation's defense and to let the american people know that this work along with hundreds of thousands of jobs are currently in jeopardy because of politics in washington . these cuts are wrong. they're not smart. they're not fair.
>> michael hersh is chief correspondent at "the national journal ." so let's start there. there's this notion that if he's confirmed and i think we all expect that he will be that he'll enter defense in some kind of a weakened position after not so great confirmation hearing and then this really okay ro moan you battle over the confirmation. what kind of tangible consequences will that have? how will the job as defense secretary be more difficult because he had a tough run?
>> well, because of the first thing to do is run in to the sequester wall. literally, within about 48 hours of being confirmed and we do expect that he certainly will be confirmed, and that means he's going to have to go back to congress kind of hat in hand and ask for the legislative authority to move money around so the impact of the sequestrati sequestration, $46 billion or so will not be as devastating as panetta and the joint chiefs have been saying.
>> michael , i'm trying to think of the lessons to draw from this pra pro tracted nomination fight with the republicans , a number of them still voting for the filibuster today and broken and probably expecting 40 will vote no on the nomination, a lot has been made about maybe this is republicans upset how he kind of left the conservative reservation on iraq , voicing opposition to the surge in 2007 . 2006 , 2007 . it strikes me republicans had no problem confirming john kerry and turned on the war and against the surge and is the real lesson of when you abandon a political party as chuck hagel did with the republicans and a lesson of payback in politics?
>> i think it is. you know, it's loyalty. it's breaking the omerita. it's a guy who was a ten years ago considered even a leading candidate for the republican presidential nomination and went against his own president and party and even worse than that was actually right, i think, about what he said. in other words, one of the big ironies now and seeing now with the debate over hagel is if you look at the things he was saying in 2002 and 2003 , a lot of it was about avoiding excess cost. the excess costs of a war that he said was unnecessary, namely iraq . here's a guy that's savvy about what he's called a bloated pentagon budget coming in at a time when the pentagon budget has to be cut so it's interesting to see whether, you know, down the line after all of this bad blood he gets credit for that.
>> michael , i loved the end of your article in "the national journal ." you write in washington one is forgiven many things. being right is another matter. for too many lawmakers, it would be too uncomfortable to have hagel restored to power, a living nagging reminder of how much they got wrong. you're talking about, of course, he got iraq right. so many others got iraq wrong and also that you can survive apostacy, right?
>> well, yeah. exactly. it's very difficult to do. the republican party is built on loyalty. all of washington is to a certain extent but again i think the point here is not that hagel simply came out against the party, it was what he was saying, the way he was saying it. in complete contrast to the confirmation hearing and where, you know, to an extent none of us quite understood, he decided to play the baffled and befuddled nominee, perhaps because he hadn't been on the other side of that line of desks. he actually said a lot of really intelligent things in the run-up to the war in iraq and talked about the diversion away from afghanistan which has we have now seen had enormous consequences in terms of u.s. resources, blood and treasure, intelligence, predators that we took away from the effort in afghanistan. so, i actually think if you look at hagel 's record, setting aside the confirmation hearing, the guy's pretty on target.
>> part of the problem is although there was reservations about iraq he did end up voting for that war and then oppose the surge which is broadly been seen as having been successful and sort of in the end got it wrong on both counts but turning to the sequester as we mentioned the top of the show, the president is in virginia today and hampton rhodes at a shipyard and interesting the political dynamic playing out there locally in virginia . a trio of virginia representatives that represent that hampton rhodes region have been very against the sequester, really trying to figure out to avoid the cuts recognizing how damaging it will be to their regions and district. are we going to see more of that as more members of congress and republican members in particular recognize how much these cuts will impact their district specifically?
>> yeah. i mean, i think the districts, republican or democrat, where you have a lot of defense employees, particularly civilian defense employees, i mean, are going to be extremely sensitive to this. you have the threat of some, you know, 800,000 defense employees who might be forced to go on unpaid furlough for part of the next seven months if the sequester goes through an almost certainly looks like it will. meanwhile, the insurance programs compromised, as well. that's a lot of voters.
>> michael , a broad question on the sequester. looks like the president made two calculations here. one, that republicans would cave because defense has been such a sacred cow in the past. and two, if that didn't happen, that they'd cave to public pressure and that the politics of this would be too damaging. was he wrong? it seems as though he might have made a miscalculation.
>> it certainly seems that way. i think one of the things at the turn of the year extending the sequester deadline by two months was that the amount of defense budget cuts went down from 55 billion to about 42, 43, 44. and i think that sort of lessened the impact in the eyes of many republicans . this is about not having too severe defense cuts because that's really a strong point for republicans . so, i think that they've just calculated and particularly pushed by the tea party , look, here we're getting all cuts and no revenue increases or additional taxes. we'll take it.
>> michael , thank you for joining us.
>> thank you.
>>> today republicans wrestling with two major issues for the future of the party and showing they may be more divided than ever before on one in particular. gay rights . we're spinning as "the cycle" rolls on for tuesday, february 26th .