Back in September, President Obama nominated Eric Fanning as the next Secretary of the Army. No one, anywhere, has raised any concerns about his qualifications for a prominent, war-time administrative post.
As the Washington Post reported several months ago, Fanning "has been a specialist on national security issues for more than two decades and has played a key role overseeing some of the Pentagon's biggest shipbuilding and fighter jet programs."
Given the responsibilities of the Army Secretary, Fanning's breadth of experience makes him an obvious choice. Which is why it's all the more noteworthy that he's unlikely to ever see a confirmation vote.
For some social conservatives, the fact that Fanning is gay is itself an automatic disqualifier, but on Capitol Hill, there's a very different kind of problem.
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) is vowing to keep a hold on President Obama's nominee for secretary of the Army until the president leaves office and is no longer in a position to close the Guantanamo Bay prison. "The hold will stay until we can get past this year," Roberts told his home=state newspaper, The Topeka Capital-Journal.... Roberts placed a hold on his confirmation in protest of Obama's push to close the military prison in Cuba. One of the potential sites to relocate detainees to is Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.
"I want to stress that it's nothing personal," Roberts said. "It's just the way it is."
Except it's not. It's the way Roberts chooses to make it.
The American military's only domestic maximum-security prison happens to be in Kansas, and Pat Roberts is apparently concerned about putting a group of dangerous people in it, so he's taken it upon himself to block a would-be Army Secretary -- because he can.
I realize that for much of the political world, this is the ultimate dog-bites-man story. President Obama sends a qualified nominee to the Senate; Republicans throw an unnecessary tantrum; and the nominee suffers indefinite delays. It's a familiar tale.
But there's another way to look at this. We're talking about a situation in which the White House sent a qualified nominee to the Senate to be Secretary of the Army during a war. The Senate can't find any reason to object, but it intends to block the nomination because one member is worried about a maximum-security detention facility housing dangerous people.
Maybe these aren't the kinds of circumstances we should get used to?