Cal apologized at the beginning of Thursday’s hearing for what he called “disrespectful” language on social media, arguing that he would approach the top of political work from a non-partisan perspective and with a lens of bilateralism in his relations with Congress.
Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Who plans to vote against Cal, opposed the nominee at the start of the hearing, noting past tweets that were critical of Republicans and former President Donald Trump’s policies. In a tweet, Cal said Republicans were “humiliated by Trump’s change” and said the GOP was “the party of ethnic cleansing,”
“The real tense moments will happen when you’re in the Pentagon and Iran hijacks another American ship or China takes down a plane,” Cotton told Cal. “And if that’s the way you react to ordinary political differences when you sit at home and read the news, I don’t think you’re fit to sit in the Pentagon and make life and death decisions.”
Cal said he was “swept” into the polarizing environment online during the Trump years.
“To put it bluntly, the last few years have been pretty polarizing on social media. I’m sure there have been times when I’ve gotten involved,” Cal told Cotton. “There were a number of positions that President Trump took that I strongly opposed. I think the language I used to oppose them was sometimes disrespectful, and I apologize for that.”
He emphasized his “long attempt” to set aside the Pentagon’s political party, starting with the George W. Bush administration.
“I understand that the position of the Undersecretary of Defense for Politics, although a political appointment, is not a political job. It is a political job. The one that requires me to be non-partisan,” he added. “I know I can introduce myself this way because I did it the last time I was at the Pentagon.”
The group’s top Republican, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, also questioned Cal’s comments and political stance – including whether sanctions should be lifted against Iran. And he criticized the details of a conversation last week between him and Cal, reported by POLITICO.
“National security is too important for party politics,” Inhofe said. “Unfortunately, in the past, in many cases, your public political positions have been in line with party policy rather than factual analysis.”
Senator Mike Rounds (RS.D.) likened the GO’s worries to Cal’s tweets to Anthony Tata’s Trump-nominated opposition for the top political post at the Pentagon, which was withdrawn last year amid an investigation into outrageous remarks against Muslims. Democrats and reinforcing conspiracy theories on Twitter. Tata was later appointed acting political leader.
“Your tweets were difficult and in many cases inflammatory, which is why many members had problems with the previous administration’s candidate for the same position,” Runds said.
A Democrat, Sen. Mazi Hirono of Hawaii, noted the irony of Republicans who won a nomination for rude tweets after many Republican lawmakers avoided commenting on Trump’s inflammatory statements, saying they had not seen them.
“I note that this nominee has been criticized for some of the tweets he posted on the deal with Iran, which I consider to be one of the most critical agreements reached by that country,” Hirono said. “That kind of criticism of tweets from people who didn’t say anything about the kind of lying, racist tweets from the former president, I think, is pretty rich.”
In addition to Cotton, Iowa Republican Johnny Ernst announced during the hearing that he would oppose Cal’s nomination.
Another Republican Army member, Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, vowed to oppose Cal ahead of Thursday’s hearing. The Republican senator claims that Cal “is constantly wrong about almost every foreign policy issue in the last memory” and “has zero meaningful experience” with China.
Democrats seem to have largely supported Cal. Armed Services Chairman Jack Reid (DR.I.) praised Cal’s experience, which included working as Pentagon’s policy manager for the Middle East from 2009 to 2011 and as national security adviser to then-Vice President Biden from 2014 to 2017. .
And Senator Tim Kane (D-Va.) Said the Republican opposition to Cal is more rooted in their views on the nuclear deal with Iran, which Cal supports, than on objections to it.
“I think your nomination is something of a proxy for the sharp differences of opinion in this committee and in Congress on the wisdom of the JCPOA,” Kane told Cal. “That’s the heart of many of the issues today.”
If Senate Republicans unite in opposition to Cal, a Democrat could swallow the 50-50 Senate nomination. The same situation threatened Tanden’s nomination when Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin opposed her candidacy.