Chuck Hagel resigns as Secretary of Defense

This is a brilliant story for those studying, or about to study the Presidency. Too often, students write about the Presidency as one man, forgetting it is actually a branch of government including the Cabinet, EXOP and the Federal Bureaucracy. The resignation of Chuck Hagel gives fantastic evidence across a range of topics:

Firstly, he is a Republican. Obama created a somewhat bipartisan cabinet, and has done throughout his presidency, showing some level of bipartisan co-operation. However this ‘team of rivals’ approach seems to be fraying at the edges and Hagel’s resignation certainly indicates this.

Also, it demonstrates the friction between a President and Cabinet member that can exist ( Unlike the UK Cabinet, where collective responsibility is key (although has too been dealt a blow by the Coalition), the US Cabinet is a far less important body. Much has been made in the news of the differing views Obama and Hagel had of ISIS, Obama seeing them as “junior varsity basketball team” while Hagel called them an “imminent threat to every interest that we have”. This demonstrates the level of difficulty a President can have in controlling his Cabinet (and would be a useful example for the problems of controlling the federal bureaucracy put forward by Dr. Singh).

This friction can also be used to discuss who controls foreign policy; second term presidents often look to foreign policy as it is relatively unhindered by checks and balances from Congress. However, this clearly shows that it is not just the President who has his eye on foreign policy. It could equally be used in a discussion of the imperial presidency, as foreign policy is usually touted as the area in which he can be imperial – while Congress may have limited checks, it would be interesting to raise the checks his own branch places on him, and evaluate how effective they are.

The replacement for Hagel will be Senate confirmable, lending further importance to the Republican victory in the mid-terms. While Obama is reportedly considering the first woman as Secretary of Defense, whoever he picks must be agreeable to a Republican Senate or face further difficulties in working with them. After the immigration executive order, the Republicans may not be in a very giving mood.

The importance of the Cabinet can also be considered in this resignation, and while Hagel only lasted two years, that is more than a third of people who have ever sat in the Cabinet lasted.

The number of links in this blog speak to both the importance of this as an example, but also the rarity. These disagreements and difficulties are rarely public, making evidence for exams difficult to come by. This is an excellent piece of evidence that must be used!