‘Weak’ secretary of defense?

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., predicts that Chuck Hagel will take office as defense secretary from a position of weakness.

Hagel’s been hammered hard by his former Senate colleagues, who’ve challenged him on all manner of questions – some of them specious and outright defamatory. But he’ll likely be confirmed this week in a full Senate vote.


But my concern about Coburn’s prediction rests with whatever role Coburn and his Capitol Hill colleagues play in weakening the new defense secretary’s position. Will they stand behind the Pentagon boss – a former Republican senator from Nebraska – or will they undermine him?

Coburn’s no dummy. He’s a physician when he isn’t making federal law. Thus, he’s certainly aware that governing is a shared responsibility. The Constitution lays it out in establishing “co-equal” branches of government: the White House, Congress and the federal courts all have a hand in running this country.

So, if Coburn’s prediction of weakness at the Pentagon comes true, he should share some of the blame in hindering the Pentagon chief’s ability to carry out national defense policy effectively.

As I’ve noted in this blog already, partisan concerns should stop “at the water’s edge.” The defense secretary is in charge of the world’s greatest military apparatus.

But he doesn’t operate in a vacuum. The president must have his back. So must the Congress.