When Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, mentioned April 6 that the US Navy would name a new destroyer after retired Sen. Carl Levin, D-Wis., fellow members of the Senate Armed Services Committee's Seapower subcommittee were quick to praise the choice. "Thank you for that pleasant news item about the [USS] Carl Levin," said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the subcommittee. "I think you saw heads nodding on both sides of the table. Senator Levin is a distinguished and thoughtful American statesman and was as even-handed a chairman as I've ever served with in my 21 years in the House and Senate. So, that's excellent news." Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., echoed Wicker's approval. "Let me just add my congratulations to Senator Levin," Ayotte said. "I can't think of a better person to name the ship after. That's great."
Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr. (R-Calif.) has made national headlines for some unfortunate reasons in recent years. It was the California Republican, for example, who claimed in 2014 that he saw secret information about ISIS militants entering the United States through the Southern border.
Hunter more recently became one of the few members of Congress to formally endorse Donald Trump's presidential campaign.
Now, however, the GOP congressman has shifted his focus to an off-the-beaten-path issue: the way in which the Navy names its ships. Defense News reported the other day (thanks to my colleague Laura Conaway for the heads-up):
Hunter, however, does not think it's great. In fact, the far-right congressman wrote a letter to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus last week, demanding an explanation for the retired Senate Democrat receiving this honor.
The Californian said his concerns aren't about Levin specifically, but rather, Hunter's concern about the ship-naming process. Hunter's chief of staff told Defense News that Mabus "has politicized the Navy to the point of no return."
The Defense News piece also noted that Hunter was particularly unhappy in 2011 after the Navy secretary named a support ship after union organizer and activist Cesar Chavez.
While Navy ships are usually named for naval leaders, often after they're deceased, plenty of exceptions have been made over the years, including this one for Levin, who chaired the Senate Armed Services Committee for eight years.