If the rumors out of the administration are accurate, it looks like former Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter will be
President Obama's nominee to replace Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon. What's more, by all appearances, Carter will likely fare well during the Senate confirmation process.
But as Al Kamen noted
, the incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee is eager to talk up someone altogether different.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Monday that White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough had contacted him about his thoughts on who should be the next defense secretary. "I said Lieberman," McCain told our colleague Steven Ginsberg as he got off the Amtrak Acela from Washington to New York. McCain laughed and said McDonough thanked him for his input, but that McCain did not think his close pal, the former senator from Connecticut, a Democrat turned Independent, would be considered for the job. (After all, he did endorse McCain over Obama in '08.)
Remember, last week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) also urged
the White House to nominate Lieberman.
The difference, of course, is that according to McCain, the Arizona Republican actually felt strongly enough about the suggestion to take it directly to the White House chief of staff. In other words, Cruz was just trolling to generate a few headlines for himself, needling for the entertainment value, but McCain seriously thinks it would be a good idea to reunite the "Three Amigos
," with McCain and Lindsey Graham in the Senate, and Lieberman at the Pentagon.
It's not a good idea at all. Let's put aside the fact that Lieberman has never served a day in the military and has never worked at the Pentagon. Instead let's remember that Lieberman spent the Bush/Cheney era as a cheerleader for a catastrophically awful national security policy.
Officials in the West Wing not only wouldn't consider him for the cabinet, they probably wouldn't be altogether comfortable with Lieberman taking a tour of the Pentagon as a tourist.
As for Ash Carter, we'll have more if/when his nomination becomes official, but Andrew Prokop had a good overview
of why Carter is considered a fully competent, qualified choice.
A theoretical physicist and former Harvard professor with an expertise in nuclear policy and weapons spending, Carter served in the Pentagon under Presidents Clinton and Obama and rose to be Deputy Secretary of Defense in October 2011. As deputy, he managed the Pentagon day-to-day and helped deal with the effects of sequestration. Well-connected among the national security establishment, Carter "has advised nearly every major strategy group, research council, and governmental panel on issues of international security," according to the New Republic. When his boss and then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta stepped down at the beginning of Obama's second term, Carter was considered as a possible replacement (and also as a potential Energy Secretary). Obama chose former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel instead, and Carter remained deputy until December 2013, when he returned to academia.