President Obama will nominate Ash Carter to be Secretary of Defense. Carter has a strong reputation as an experienced, intelligent, and sensible defense expert. When I saw him speak a few years ago at the American Enterprise Institute, I thought he lived up to that reputation.
The fact that Obama passed over Ash Carter in favor of a fool like Chuck Hagel speaks volumes.
The main concern with Carter arises from the fact that he is willing to serve Obama as Secretary of Defense. I voiced this concern here. Ted Cruz expressed it yesterday.
Obama’s defense polices are so misguided, his approach to dealing with ISIS so incoherent, and the interaction of his inner-circle with the Pentagon so dysfunctional, that it’s easy to feel that no self-respecting public servant would accept the top job at DOD. And, in fact, two other strong candidates, including the highly-regarded Michele Flournoy, removed themselves from consideration.
On reflection, though, I don’t think this critique withstands scrutiny. It’s natural for Carter to want to head an agency he has served for decades, and it’s patriotic to accept the responsibilities and burdens of doing so. If one holds Obama and/or his policies in contempt or is concerned about the future career implications of being heavily associated with this ship-wreck of an administration, then turning down the job is the right thing to do. Otherwise, there should be a strong presumption in favor of accepting it.
By accepting the top Pentagon job, Carter shows that he probably doesn’t hold Obama and his policies in contempt. But Obama was never going to nominate anyone who holds him and his policies in contempt. He was never, for example, going to nominate Joe Lieberman, who may fit this description.
Carter is probably about as good as we were going to get from this administration. He will be confirmed, and should be.