The Rachel Maddow Show | February 07, 2013
>>> i had one fundamental question that i asked myself on every vote i took, every decision i made. was the policy worthy of the men and women that we were sending into battle and surely to their deaths? i did question a surge. it wasn't an aberration to me ev ever. i always asked the question, is this going to be worth the sacrifice? because there will be sacrifice.
>> last week the senate questioned chuck hagel , former senator chuck hagel as part of their due diligence over his nomination to be secretary of defense. republican senators on the committee that questioned him were clearly mostly against him. but since some republicans in the senate and all the democrats in the senate apparently support the chuck hagel nomination, the republicans who don't like him do not seem to have the votes to stop his nomination. since then, know, the nomination has gotten a little weird. with a group of republican senators asking for and getting a delay in the committee vote on his nomination because they demand that chuck hagel hand over sensitive information about private companies that chuck hagel says is not his to give out. people who watch this kind of thing say that demand is not just unusual, it is unprecedented. joining us now for some perspective is norm orenstein. he's resident scholar at the american enterprise int institute. he's co-author of "it's even ors
than it looks: how the american constitutional system collided with the new politics of extremes many." thank you for being with us tonight.
>> thank you very much, rachel.
>> you have so closely followed washington politics for so long. is this in fact unprecedented? have you ever seen anything like this particular demand that's hanging up the hague'll nomination right now?
>> no i have i haven't seen anything close to it is, rachel. we've seen dirty tricks before. raw files from the fbi, rumors and things released by senators that they shouldn't have. but this kind of information has not been asked before. and as you suggest, it's not just for defense secretaries. it's for other cabinet members . when you go through the initial vetting process to make it to a position of this sort, you go through a meat grinder. you have to fill out forms where you're required to provide all kinds of financial information. every foreign trip you've taken in decades. every speech you've given. then you have a full fbi field investigation that includes 40 face-to-face interviews with people who may or may not know you, those close to you, those who are neighbors. all that information is provided to the senate. and when you look at what they're asking for, the idea that you would have to provide transcripts of speeches where you didn't even have a written speech and financial information, not just from private commercial firms but from button-down organizations like the atlantic council , all with the implication that you might have improper ties to foreign governments or foreign countries. it's pretty low.
>> well, it would be one thing if there was one senator who was doing this, threatening, say, a hold on a nomination if he or she did not get this information even though it's not within the history of the senate to demand this sort of thing. but it's a large number of republican senators who have signed on to this. what do you make of that dynamic?
>> you know, i think you have a lot of republicans who just don't like what chuck hagel has become. he has been an ike oncon clavt. he's criticized his own party for moving to the radical right. he endorgsed barack obama . and he has positioned on foreign policy that many of them don't like either. but much of this for spite and let's face it some of it is the kind of reflexive move to try po punish barack obama where they can. and i'm afraid what concerns me most is that this set of unreasonable demands, and hagel's quite reasonable response to them is an excuse to do a full-fledged filibuster. and if you turn it into a partisan filibuster of a cabinet nominee at this level, then you move to another kind of unprecedented action and a dangerous one. and what we're seeing now is a sort of faux filibuster, as jonathan bernstein pointed out in the " washington post " today.
>> if they do decide to stick with this delay that they have insisted on thus far, if they continue to pursue it, or if they do in fact filibuster, do you think that the democrats would reasonably take that as a reason to finally reform the filibuster? i realize it would be an extreme step for them to do that. but wouldn't it be sort of an equal and opposite reaction?
>> you know, i read a column in " roll call ." and my column today flowed not from this but from the outrageous court decision on recess appointments. the deal that we struck on the filibuster, we saw that harry reid and mitch mcconnell struck, is based in part, it expedites some nominations if they come from rogue individual senators or a handful, but it's based in part on a kind of gentleman's agreement that you're not going to misuse the filibuster in nominations in the same way. and if you see a filibuster of hagel in this case where there is a clear majority and more for his confirmation, and you know, think about this, we've got a sequester coming up, which could cause enormous potential damage to national security , you're going to keep the defense secretary from being in place to help to administer that. we've got a war going on. i think you'd have to, if you were in harry reid 's shoes, begin to rethink what you're going to do with the rules.
>> as an institutional scholar such as yourself, hearing that come from you carries a lot of weight. norm ornstein , resident scholar at the american enterprise institute , co-author of "it's even worse than it looks." thank you for being with us tonight. it's great to have your perspective.
>> thank you so much.
>> all right. we'll be right