THE BLOG
01/08/2013 02:53 pm ET Updated Mar 10, 2013

Don't Haggle Over Hagel

Almost as quickly as former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel's name was revealed as President Obama's pick to head the Department of Defense, character assassination from every angle took hold. They called him anti-Israeli, despite the fact that he clearly supports the state of Israel and our unique relationship with that country. They said he was anti-gay because of comments he made years ago, though he has since apologized and admitted that his remarks were insensitive. And because of his vocal opposition to the Iraq invasion, the war hawks are now up in arms. It is in fact this last point that summarizes the real reason for this invented 'uproar.' Because Hagel is a Republican, because he is not a warmonger, because he comes to the table with the experience and ability to run the Pentagon, because he believes in negotiating before bombing and because he could justifiably cut our defense budget, those who are willing to sacrifice the nation's well being for war profits are trying to do everything to stop Hagel's nomination. He is, after all, the perfect candidate.

When a contingent of conservative leaders attempted to hold the country hostage and push us over the fiscal cliff, we fought back. Hoping to cut funding to essential programs like Medicare, Social Security, unemployment benefits and more, they were willing to risk downgrading our economy just to get their way. Instead of placing cuts where they belong -- in areas of defense, for instance -- they wish to place the burden on the backs of hard-working Americans that have already paid into many of these social services. Poll after poll continually indicates that the citizens of this nation do not want anyone cutting Medicare, Social Security or other programs. The election of 2012 proved that Americans do not want to see an elimination of these services that many have already paid in to. And the direction of this country is aligned with the sentiments of its people that are now utilizing many of these essential programs more and more because the wealthy gambled with our money and our future. We chose to continue moving forward, to stop making the poor and middle-class share in the sacrifice when we didn't share in the prosperity and we chose instead to reduce our operations abroad.

Against the Iraq war from the onset, President Obama successfully ordered the withdrawal of troops during his first term as Commander-in-Chief. And as we work towards a successful withdrawal from Afghanistan, why shouldn't it be time to reduce our astronomical defense budget? In 2011 alone, our government spent about $718 billion on defense and security-related international activities according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities -- that's billion with a b. At a time when so many American families are struggling to find work, put food on the table, clothe their children or maintain a roof over their heads, this unfortunate paradox must shift. We cannot in good conscience even suggest that cutting social services that millions rely on to just survive should take place before reducing the Pentagon's budget. And because of modern technology, less combat troops are physically needed in places as they once were. To any rational person, these points make absolute sense; but not if you're a Republican politician supported by military contractors and war advocates.

I can join like-minded individuals and talk about these issues all day, but those on the right will always find a way to make cutting our defense budget a partisan issue. But when you have a Republican war hero like Hagel stating the same, what can his opposition do? Absolutely nothing except try to stop his nomination from transpiring in the first place. Because those yelling the loudest know that Hagel is the perfect choice to downsize the Pentagon's budget without appearing to be a 'reckless left-wing radical,' they are scared. They are worried that they will have nothing in their power to stop a very necessary cut to our soaring overseas expenditures. And they are concerned about military contractors that lobby and support them continuously.

Chuck Hagel in all likelihood will serve as our next Secretary of Defense. The entire confirmation process, however, is guaranteed to be complicated as the war advocates will try their best to tarnish this man's legacy and reputation. But it's important we remember that this is all just political theater. Ultimately, the voters chose progress in the 2012 election; they chose to continue supporting health care, Medicare, Social Security, unemployment insurance, food stamps and more; they chose a tax increase on the wealthy; and they chose a reduction in our defense budget as opposed to a reduction in our vital social services. Who better to lead this charge than Hagel.

Maybe it's time we stop all this haggling over Hagel. Just maybe.

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