Meet the Untouchables: Obama’s Second Term Cabinet
On the day of Senator Chuck Hagel’s confirmation hearing as Secretary of Defense designate before the Senate Armed Services Committee, committee member Ted Cruz told an interviewer that Hagel’s testimony “was a manifestation of just how untouchable the Obama administration feels right now.”
Cruz, the newly elected Republican Senator from Texas, concluded that by all indications President Obama shows his firm belief that nothing can stop him now. At the same time, Cruz noted, Obama is perfectly willing to stick a thumb in the eye of his detractors.
The senior members of Obama’s second term cabinet are an undistinguished group that richly deserves to be called The Untouchables. Kerry at State, Lew at Treasury, Hagel at Defense, and the holdover Eric Holder at Justice, are ordinary in the extreme. Nevertheless, they display arrogance and superiority at every turn and a firm conviction that no one can touch them.
The godfather of The Untouchables, the President himself, set the tone in his inaugural address. It was a blatant statement of unbridled liberalism laced with an air of defiance. The President could have delivered the whole address in one phrase – – Catch Me If You Can.
Only two days after the inauguration came the number one Untouchable of the first Obama administration, Hillary Clinton, in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to answer for the terrorist attack in Benghazi last September that killed four Americans. It was Clinton’s swan song after two decades of standing front and center on the public stage– a First Lady, a United States Senator from New York, and a Secretary of State.
After more than four months of breathless anticipation, the Clinton testimony was a bust. In a back-and-forth line of questioning between fawning Democrats and skeptical Republicans, the American public learned nothing new about that tragic day last September 11. Clinton escaped unscathed and could hardly contain her glee. On to 2016.
Clinton’s performance was followed by the confirmation hearing for a seasoned Untouchable, Senator John Kerry, the most long-winded senator since Joe Biden. Kerry sailed through his Senate hearing. Within days, the full Senate with only three negative votes confirmed him as the next Secretary of State. He will cap his long career in the highest-ranking and most visible cabinet post, America’s emissary to the world.
Then came the first speed bump in the process to confirm the senior members of Obama’s second term cabinet – – Senator Hagel’s session before the Senate Armed Services Committee as the nominee for Secretary of Defense. Hagel’s testimony was more like a train wreck than a speed bump. Incredulous Republicans relentlessly questioned Hagel for his past statements and votes. Even a few Democrats seemed ill at ease and quick to emphasize their differences with Hagel.
Hagel, a former two-term Senator from Nebraska, had to answer for his relentless hostility to Israel, his refusal to condemn terrorist organizations, his calls for both nuclear and conventional weapons cutbacks, and his reluctance to endorse sanctions against Iran.
From the outset, the hearing degenerated into a shambles. Hagel bobbed, weaved, and dissembled. He denied his former positions through tortured explanations that defied logic. At times he seemed incoherent. Nevertheless, he shamelessly pressed on. After all, now he is one of The Untouchables.
There is more to come. Soon we will hear from Jack Lew, Obama’s nominee to serve as Treasury Secretary. Already there is widespread concern about Lew’s qualifications. He is a long time Democratic Party functionary who climbed the ladder and served as Budget Director and White House Chief of Staff. Along the way he made a pit stop on Wall Street to pick up some cash. Now he is poised to join his fellow Untouchables as the guardian of the nation’s economy.
A sideshow to filling out the cabinet at the most senior level will be the confirmation of John Brennan as CIA Director. A 25-year veteran of the agency, Brennan has served as Obama’s chief advisor for counterterrorism. He is not without controversy, mainly as an architect of the use of armed drones and his enthusiastic cheerleading for President Obama following the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
The Untouchables reflect an offensive self-righteousness deeply rooted in the Obama administration. It is a worldview that the United States has acted at times as a reckless bully, quick to go to war and insensitive to third world sensibilities. In short, America needs to be downsized to take its proper place in the world. This stance perfectly reflects the views of the President himself.
As he begins his second term in the comfortable company of his handpicked band of Untouchables, the President runs the risk of committing the most dangerous mistake of all. He will overreach, unable to grasp the goals that will shape his coveted legacy.
The penalty for second term presidents who overreach can be severe. Events beyond Obama’s control can crash the President and the Untouchables on the rocks. Down the road is the hazard of the midterm elections in 2014. The Untouchables should be on guard. The outside world and the American electorate may touch them in the end.
During the course of his career, Walker has worked in Chicago, Washington DC, New York City, and Phoenix. He served as a reporter in Chicago, a press secretary and speechwriter in Washington, and in numerous positions in New York in corporate and financial services communications.
Walker is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.