An agitated Elizabeth Warren treated Mark Esper as though he was a corruptocrat-in-waiting, and he was not having it.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has been enjoying a steady rise in presidential polling numbers over the last two months. She also had very impressive numbers for second quarter fundraising, bringing in $19.1 million, coming in third only to Joe Biden and South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Perhaps it was the rise in polling numbers, the massive fundraising haul, or both that made Warren feel confidently contemptuous enough to treat Defense Secretary nominee Mark Esper like a corruptocrat-in-waiting during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on his nomination on Tuesday.
In a heated exchange at a Senate Armed Services confirmation hearing, Warren — a Democratic presidential contender — criticized Esper for not committing to extend for his entire tenure at the Pentagon his recusal from issues involving Raytheon, where he worked as a top lobbyist.
Warren cited former acting Secretary Pat Shanahan, a former vice president with Boeing, who extended his recusal permanently amid questions about his ties to the aerospace company. She also pressed Esper to commit to never seek a waiver from his recusal and not seek defense industry employment for four years after leaving government, which he declined to do.
“Let me get this straight. You’re still due to get at least a million-dollar payout from when you lobbied for Raytheon. You won’t commit to recuse yourself,” Warren said. “You insist on being free to seek a waiver that would let you make decisions affecting Raytheon’s bottom line and your remaining financial interest. And you won’t rule out taking a trip right back through the revolving door on your way out of government service.”
Esper, who until recently was the acting Secretary of Defense, was not having it:
Esper, who is now being promoted to Defense secretary, jabbed back at Tuesday’s hearing, arguing he hadn’t sought a waiver and had abided by all his ethics obligations. And he pointed to former President Barack Obama’s selection of Bill Lynn, also a top lobbyist for Raytheon, as deputy secretary.
“I went to war for this country. I served overseas for this country. I’ve stepped down from jobs that paid me well more than [government],” Esper said. “And each time, it was to serve the public good and to serve the young men and women of our armed services.”
“I think the presumption is, for some reason, anybody who comes from the business or the corporate world is corrupt,” he said.
Warren then went into full meltdown mode as she was gaveled down by Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK) after attempting to clap back at Esper’s statement:
Chairman: “You’ve gone two minutes over.”
Warren: “I have not gone over. He has gone over. And he is not willing to make a commitment that he will not engage in conflicts of interest with that company for which he was a lobbyist. This is outrageous.”
Watch video of the full exchange below:
Several Republican Senators took exception to Warren’s treatment of Esper, including Rick Scott (FL) who accused Warren of orchestrating a performance for her presidential campaign:
“I’m very disappointed that Sen. Warren would demonize you after you decades of service simply because you served in the private sector,” said Rick Scott, a Florida Republican. “There’s a lot of us who have been in the private sector and that doesn’t take anything away from our ability to do our job. I guess she just needed a moment for her presidential campaign,” Scott said.
Once you watch the video of the two of them going back and forth, you can very clearly see that Warren was the aggressor, cutting Esper off, not letting him complete his answers, and so on. To be sure, asking the types of questions Warren did shouldn’t be considered out of bounds, but it’s the way she asked them that made her come off as rude and condescending when such treatment wasn’t necessary.
With that being said, how did CNN choose to frame the story in their headline? As though it was Esper who initiated the “sparring” match:
Defense Secretary nominee Esper spars with Warren over ties to defense contractor
On a related note, I’m trying to figure out why it’s *not* considered sexist and rude for women to repeatedly interrupt men during hearings but it *is* considered sexist and rude for men to interrupt women at these same hearings. That’s another topic for another day, but worth mentioning all the same considering the dynamics of what happened Tuesday.
In spite of Warren’s grandstanding and theatrics, Esper is expected to be confirmed, possibly as early as Thursday but more likely sometime next week.
— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter. —DONATE
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