As Republicans made history yesterday by filibustering a secretary of defense nominee for the first time in U.S. history, Fox News contributor Scott Brown expressed support for the Republican's obstructionist strategy of denying Chuck Hagel's confirmation vote. Insisting there was no reason to “ram” Hagel's nomination through, and claiming Republicans were acting “thoroughly” and “thoughtfully,” the former Republican senator told Neil Cavuto's viewers GOP senators leading the filibuster effort “have some very real concerns” and were acting appropriately in blocking a vote.
Sean Hannity agreed, boasting last night that blocking Hagel's confirmation represented a “major win” for the Republican Party.
Of course, Fox News employee Bill Kristol helped launch the entire anti-Hagel effort back in December and his group has aired anti-Hagel ads. This week on Fox News' Special Report, Kristol urged Republicans to stick together and delay the confirmation vote. Meanwhile, Fox contributor Erick Erickson took to the Internet yesterday, beseeching conservatives to contact their senators and implore them to filibuster Hagel's nomination.
So yeah, Fox News seems fine with the obstructionist effort underway in the Senate.
And yes, here's the part where we detail how Fox News projected a very different message when a Republican president's cabinet nominee once encountered far more mild opposition from Democrats. Under that scenario, Fox talkers thundered about the “petty” and “mean spirited” nature of Democrats and led viewers through a series of how-dare-they segments.
The glaring hypocrisy makes the current, hollow cries against Hagel even more difficult to take seriously.
The truth is, Democrats have never tried to obstruct an up-or-down vote on a secretary of defense pick before. And since the Senate tradition for the last hundred years has been to allow newly elected presidents to pick the cabinet of his choice, there is no recent instance to contrast with the Hagel nomination brawl, or the media behavior that surrounded it.
The closest comparison, and it isn't even that close, came when President Bush nominated Condoleezza Rice to be Secretary of State during his second term. Some Democrats objected, noting that Rice had helped plan, and publicly market, the controversial Iraq invasion; an invasion built around the false premise that Saddam Hussein was hoarding weapons of mass destruction.
Unlike Hagel (a critic of the Iraq War), Rice was easily confirmed by the Senate committee overseeing her selection, and was then given a full vote in the senate, which approved her 85-13. Democrats made no effort to place a “hold” or to filibuster her confirmation. As Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) told Fox's Chris Wallace at the time of the Rice nomination, “The president is entitled to his Cabinet.” Feinstein added that she didn't want Rice “diminished in the eyes of the world,” via the confirmation process.
But the mere fact that a handful of Democrats opposed Rice and pressed her closely about the Iraq War during the confirmation process prompted several rounds of angry complaints from Fox News. The same Fox News that now touts the Hagel filibuster as a “major win.”
Back during the winter of 2005, Sean Hannity was furious Democrats refused to vote on the Rice confirmation in time for Bush's second Inauguration Day. This was viewed as the ultimate partisan insult. (By contrast, Obama was inaugurated more than three weeks ago, Hagel's confirmation vote still hasn't taken place, and Republicans seek to delay it further.)
On January 19, 2005, when an agitated Hannity asked Newt Gingrich about the Democrats' handling of the secretary of state nomination, the Fox News contributor denounced it as “petty and mean spirited and obstructionist.”
That same month Fox's Bill Bennett, addressing the Rice pick, condemned Democrats on-air for “simply criticizing and running down the other party.” The day before, while appearing on The Big Story With John Gibson, Republican strategist Dylan Glenn could not believe how Democrats were disrespecting Bush via his selection of Rice:
He's trying to work across the aisle. He sends up his nominee for the secretary of State, who is, by all accounts, his prerogative as the President of the United States. And the Democrats decide to rerun the last election. And it just smacks of sour grapes.
Commenting on the Rice battle, Fred Barnes complained Democrats had adopted a doomed strategy where “you oppose every initiative of the majority party.” Barnes' co-host at the time, Morton Kondracke, agreed that the ploy was both foolish and insulting:
Holding up Condi Rice's nomination for a day, that is, that is petty, and I think the Democrats are making a serious mistake. After all, Bush was elected with a majority of the vote this time.
When a Republican was in the White House and his secretary of state nominee received modest opposition on the way to an easy confirmation, Fox News was deeply incensed by Democratic delays. Today, concerns about “obstructionist” tactics haven't evaporated, they're no fully endorsed at Fox.