Editorial voices from U.S., elsewhere
Editorial voices from the U.S. and around the world as compiled by the Associated Press:
The remarkable thing about President Barack Obama’s nomination of Sen. Chuck Hagel as his new defense secretary is not the fact that Hagel is a Republican. It is the fact that the Republican whom the president has chosen as defense secretary is Hagel. Many U.S. presidents like to have members of the other party somewhere in their cabinets – even George W. Bush followed that custom. And Democratic presidents, attracted to putting defense issues above party, have frequently put a Republican into the Pentagon, as John Kennedy did with Robert McNamara, and other successors including Bill Clinton have done since.
Hagel, however, is not a typical modern Republican. He is a conservative on domestic policy but he is very independent on defense and security, and has long been out of line with mainstream Republican thinking, particularly since 9/11. In his 12 years in the U.S. Senate, from which he stepped down in 2008, Hagel was often out of step not just with his own party but with some Democrats too – his friend, fellow Vietnam veteran and Nebraska senator Bob Kerrey, was similarly iconoclastic.
The unifying feature of Hagel’s security record is skepticism about assertive U.S. unilateralism and his advocacy of what he calls “principled realism”. He thinks America cannot be the world’s policeman. He thinks that America should not be isolated, either. But it is why the rest of the world ought to see his arrival at the Pentagon as an appointment full of possibilities.
Americans might be wondering if they are stuck in a Looney Tunes cartoon. We technically went over the fiscal cliff at the start of 2013, but just like Daffy or the Road Runner, we’ve yet to begin our descent. We are in that part of the cartoon where the victim hovers in midair, quizzically looking around and waiting for the next calamity. Our concern is that the so-called fiscal cliff we appear to have avoided is but one in a series of challenges. In other words, Americans may have crawled in midair back to safe ground, like Daffy Duck, but there’s an ACME safe headed straight for our collective heads.
It’s expected by March that Washington, D.C. will commence a fresh set of brinksmanship. This time the argument will be over raising the debt ceiling. Republicans have signaled they will not raise the debt ceiling unless they extract massive spending cuts from the Obama administration. Not this time, comes the response from the White House. Playing around with the nation defaulting on its debt isn’t something Obama is apparently willing to discuss.
These are proxy fights over a bigger ideological struggle. Should government grow or should it shrink? An even more important question is who will feel the most pain from the shrinking?
Don’t expect this cartoon to end any time soon.
Critics of the Obama administration’s expanded use of pilotless drone aircraft to kill alleged terrorists abroad have been assured that the strikes are justified and legal. Yet, when The New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union asked for detailed evidence of the government’s legal arguments, they were told that is a national security secret.
Recently, a federal judge ruled in the administration’s favor, though even she expressed exasperation: “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the executive branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusions a secret.”
This is hard to take from a president who, as a candidate, promised to do a better job than the previous occupant of the White House in making important government information available to the American people. It is also hard to take from a president who has kept in place many of the war-on-terror tactics he found troubling or offensive when they were practiced by President George W. Bush.
The president obviously believes the attacks are morally and legally justified. He should release all legal justifications produced by his administration or explain to the American people why that cannot be shared with them.