Republicans Attack Mean Tweets by Biden’s Pick for Defense Post
(Bloomberg) -- Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee challenged President Joe Biden’s pick for undersecretary of defense for policy Thursday, portraying his criticism of former President Donald Trump’s administration as “hyper-partisan” and intemperate.
“Your public policy positions have been couched in partisan politics rather than fact-based analysis,” Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the committee, told Colin Kahl at a confirmation hearing on his nomination for the No. 3 position at the Pentagon. “Hyper-partisanship, especially in regards to our national security, is inappropriate for a position of undersecretary of defense for policy.”
Criticism by Inhofe and other Republicans on the committee indicated that mean tweets have again become an issue for one of Biden’s nominees. Neera Tanden, Biden’s nominee for director of the White House budget office, withdrew after her history of derisive tweets about members of both parties undermined her chances of confirmation.
Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas said Kahl engaged in “volatile outbursts” in late-night tweets and that his “intemperate manner will create a toxic environment in the Pentagon.”
But there was no immediate sign of opposition to Kahl from Democrats, and Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii said the criticism from Republicans was “pretty rich” in light of Trump’s thousands of derisive postings before he was banned from Twitter.
Cotton said he will vote against confirming Kahl, as did Republican Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, who said she couldn’t support someone who “put this kind of garbage in front of the American people.”
Kahl, who served as Biden’s national security adviser when he was vice president, apologized.
“The last few years have been pretty polarizing on social media. I am sure there are times that I got swept up in that,” he said. “There were a number of positions that President Trump took that I strongly opposed. I think the language that I used in opposing those was sometimes disrespectful and for that I apologize.”
Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia said he believed the Republican complaints about Kahl’s tweets are a “proxy” for their animosity over Kahl’s role in crafting the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that Trump abandoned.
Kahl, who’s currently a professor at Stanford University, said he would be nonpartisan as the top deputy to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, noting that he served under Secretary Robert Gates during the Republican administration of President George W. Bush.
But Inhofe said that many of Kahl’s policy predictions during the Trump presidency had “proven to be untrue,” including saying that Trump’s policies on Iran and North Korea would lead to war.
Republicans also cited Democrats’ opposition to Anthony Tata, Trump’s pick for Pentagon policy chief, in part because of his inflammatory past statements. Tata was never confirmed.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.