Strange Days in the Senate: Could Ted Cruz Do What He Is Asking of Hagel?

Don't all senators make off-the-cuff speeches?

Thumbnail image for Cruz-Headshot.jpgSenators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK), the new ranking member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, think they have found a way to gum up progress on the confirmation process of Chuck Hagel.

They want "copies" of speeches he has reportedly given and for which he was occasionally compensated. Hagel has sent  all available speeches -- including video fragments or transcripts if they exist -- to the committee and has  confessed that he just didn't use prepared texts for a number of these possibly great moments of Hagel oratory. 

But they seem to want them anyway!

While I personally think Hagel is always better with a prepared text (Sorry Chuck), like many US senators -- including Inhofe and Cruz no doubt -- Hagel thinks he gives pretty good remarks without the scribbles drafted by an aide organizing his words. Believe me, Chuck Hagel is wrong on this, but he suffers from the same delusions that nearly all of his peers do. From my perspective, Hagel is a top notch thinker and strategist -- but his speaking could always get a boost from a Jon Lovett- or Jon Favreau-type. After all, look what Lovett did for Obama's Correspondent's Dinner fun with Donald Trump.

I've seen John McCain, Jim Inhofe, Jeff Sessions, Roy Blunt and others speak extemporaneously -- and if they were in Hagel's seat, I'm sure they'd be a bit miffed if senators Jeanne Shaheen or Carl Levin or Joe Manchin were pounding on them to produce speech texts that don't exist. They need to get over it. Calling Hagel a "liar" is beneath them, beneath the institution in which they work, and not healthy for democracy.

They also want financial information about donations received by and business done in the private and public firms Hagel was associated with but did not actually control.

Ted Cruz's wife works for Goldman Sachs. Let's turn this around a bit. Should Cruz's wife, Heidi, eventually be nominated for something big time -- or Senator Cruz himself have ambitions beyond his senate perch -- will he be able to compel her to make Goldman Sachs, which has considerable equities involving the US national interest, disclose its business and relationships domestic and foreign? I certainly hope not. Wrong way to get at Goldman Sachs -- and an inappropriate expectation from the eventually-nominated-to-something Ted or Heidi Cruz.

Goldman Sachs is a private firm. Chevron, for whom Hagel sits on a board of directors, is a private firm. The Atlantic Council, whose board Hagel is also on, is a nonprofit, private firm.

If the Senate wants to call a hearing about Chevron's business or the Atlantic Council's international funders and activities, it should do so! By all means.

Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman once sat on the board of the Nixon Center for Peace and Freedom, an institution that I am proud of and for which I was grateful for the support of these Senators. But it would be wrong for any United States senator or committee to think that John McCain could force the Nixon Center (now the Center for the National Interest) to disclose private financial information on his behalf.

Should Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin see merit in the requests made by Senators Cruz and others about matters that are proprietary to private firms and not in Hagel's latitude to offer, then this is going to be a really fun slippery slope. The entangled relationships of all US senators and spouses would be screened to see what they might be able to cough up about firms they have some connection to but don't run.

I don't think we should go down that road -- but if Senator Cruz compels it, it should be interesting.