The Cable

Scowcroft weighs in on the Hagel nomination

Republican foreign-policy realists haven't changed their tune over the years, but some in the GOP have moved away from the realists, such as defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel, according to former national security advisor Brent Scowcroft.

"We haven't moved; the Republican party has moved," Scowcroft told The Cable in an interview. "I have been a lifelong Republican and I hold to what I are my own beliefs, which happen to be core Republican beliefs, but many in the party have taken a different course."

Scowcroft is one of several senior former GOP officials, including Secretary of State Colin Powell, to back the Hagel nomination in the face of opposition from half a dozen GOP senators and groups associated with the neoconservative and hawkish sides of the Republican foreign policy community. Scowcroft said the GOP is rooted in the realist principles he still espouses.

"The neocons go clear back to the 1970s. They were Democrats, then became sort of Republicans," he said. "I'm who I am. Whether the party wants to desert me, that's their privilege."

Hagel's controversial comments from years past, such as when he once referred to the "Jewish lobby" or his longstanding opposition to unilateral sanctions, shouldn't bar him from serving as defense secretary, according to Scowcroft.

"He is first and foremost an American and he takes an American perspective on everything he discusses," he said. "I'm frankly surprised [by the controversy], because he says what he believes at the time and there is a core in what he has said that makes some sense. Would you rather have someone who has never said anything?"

Scowcroft joined with several other former officials in both parties to sign a letter in support of Hagel las month on the letterhead of the "Bipartisan Group," a loose association of former officials that includes Hagel. The Cable reported that horse racing gambler Bill Benter paid to have that letter advertised in Politico's Playbook newsletter.

But the Bipartisan Group has no further plans to act on behalf of Hagel and is not working directly with the Obama administration on the Hagel defense effort.

"This is a group that got together to write a letter to the president in 2008 about the Palestinian peace process and then got together again to write this letter," said Scowcroft. "There's no organization, there's no strategy, there's no nothing as far as I am concerned. It was a one-off thing. That's the whole story as far as I know."

Scowcroft said it was "strong and brave" of President Barack Obama to choose a Republican such as Hagel, but he does not think this necessarily means Obama is cementing a foreign policy legacy that tracks with the Republican realist view of the world.

"The president on foreign policy is fairly eclectic,' he said. "It's a promising move. Whether it represents anything broader than that, I'm not prepared to say."

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The Cable

New House Foreign Affairs Committee takes shape

The House Foreign Affairs Committee and its staff have new leadership following a series of decisions by the incoming chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA).

"I am pleased to announce these Subcommittee chairmen, all of whom will be valuable members of the Foreign Affairs Committee leadership team and critical to fulfilling the important mission of the Committee," Royce said in a Tuesday statement, in which he revealed that the committee will now have 46 members: 25 Republicans and 21 Democrats. "This slate of chairmen brings to the Committee leadership a vital mix of seasoned experience and fresh perspective. Together, we will address some of the gravest threats facing the United States -- chief among them Iran's nuclear program."

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who had to give up the chair due to committee term limits, will go back to chairing the subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa. The previous chair of that subcommittee, Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), will move over to head the subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific. Rep. Donald Manzullo (R-IL), who led the Asia subcommittee in the last Congress, retired and how heads the Korea Economic Institute.

The committee's most vocal and controversial leader, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), will no longer lead the subcommittee on oversight and investigations, because that subcommittee will be shut down. Royce's team decided that oversight and investigations should be conducted by the full committee staff, according to committee sources, and there was some angst about Rohrabacher's freelancing and penchant for stirring up international incidents, such as when he called the Pakistanis "hardcore, two-faced enemies" or when he got banned from Afghanistan by President Hamid Karzai.

Rohrabacher will be given the subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and North Africa, where he won't be able to do as much damage. The previous chair of that subcommittee, Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), also retired.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), last in the news for his advocacy on behalf of blind Chinese activist Cheng Guangcheng, will retain control over the subcommittee on Africa, global health, global human rights, and international organizations. Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) will replace Royce as chair of the subcommittee on terrorism, nonproliferation, and trade. Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) will chair the subcommittee on the western hemisphere, following the electoral defeat of Rep. Connie Mack (R-FL).

The staff of the committee also will have new leadership. Longtime Ros-Lehtinen chief of staff Yleem Sarmiento de Poblete has left. She was known for running her shop with an iron fist. Royce has brought on Tom Sheehy, his subcommittee staff director, to be the next staff director of the full committee. His deputy staff director will be Edward Burrier.

Royce is said to want to make the committee more relevant, more bipartisan, and more productive than it was during Ros-Lehtinen's tenure, when Democrats and Republicans agreed on little and most of their legislation never saw the light of day in the Senate.

"In the 113th Congress, the Committee will also work to boost U.S. economic growth overseas, provide effective oversight of the Obama administration's foreign policies, give a greater focus to Asia, respond to security threats and new governments in the Middle East, and provide aggressive oversight of foreign aid," Royce said.

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