We do not have, at 12 o’clock today, a Secretary of Defense.Harry Reid, revealing today that Senate Republicans have rounded up the 41 votes necessary to block the nomination of Chuck Hagel to the Defense Department. Today is outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s last day on the job; if Republicans make good on their threats during Hagel’s confirmation vote tomorrow—and this is certainly a big “if”—it will be the first time a nominee for Secretary of Defense has been filibustered, and the country will be left without a Defense Secretary. A couple of Republican senators have threatened to block Hagel’s nomination unless the Obama Administration releases more information about the attack last year on the American consulate in Benghazi, an incident with which Hagel was wholly uninvolved. A Hagel spokesman said today that despite the threats of his former colleagues, the Nebraska Republican is not withdrawing his nomination. source
The oldest bottle in his friend’s restaurant? an 1870 Chateau Lafite Rothschild. Years ago, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made a bet with a restaurateur around his CIA-led mission to find Osama Bin Laden: If Panetta’s team caught Bin Laden, Ted Balestreri would open up a bottle of wine that predates the first automobile. Now that time’s come. With Bin Laden dead, Balestreri will uncork that 141-year-old bottle around New Year’s Eve. Did we mention the bottle costs between $10,000 and $15,000? Careful to walk a line, though, one of Panetta’s spokespeople notes that this gesture isn’t meant to celebrate Bin Laden’s death. “Secretary Panetta has had New Year’s Eve gatherings with toasts with friends for years and this year there will be a special toast,” noted Douglas Wilson, the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. source
I congratulate Robert Gates on his selection as the twenty-fourth Chancellor of the College of William & Mary. In Bob, one of our nation’s oldest colleges has found one of our nation’s finest public servants. I’m confident that Bob will bring to this new role the same sense of duty and personal integrity that I and other Presidents valued during his distinguished career in government.Barack Obama • Congratulating former Defense Secretary Robert Gates for his new job — Chancellor at William & Mary. We’ll congratulate the same.
My greatest worry will be that we are at the mercy of the courts and all of the lack of predictability that that entails.Defense Secretary Robert Gates • Emphasizing that it’s better for Congress to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” and allow an orderly end to the policy than for the court system to simply force an end to the policy. Yesterday’s vote which failed 57-40, fell apart without any GOP support; Gates was “disappointed in the Senate vote, but not surprised.” Along with just about everyone else looking for a repeal, buddy. source (via • follow)