Senate Republicans ripped into Colin Kahl, President Joe Biden's pick to be the top policy official at the Pentagon, for what they called inappropriate and partisan tweets.
"What concerns me here is that hyper-partisanship -- especially in regards to our national security -- is inappropriate for the position of under secretary of defense for policy," Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said at Kahl's nomination hearing Thursday.
"Unfortunately, in the past, in many cases, your public policy positions have been couched in partisan politics rather than fact-based analysis," Inhofe added.
Republican lawmakers didn't give many specific examples of mean tweets from Kahl. But in October 2019, he did post, "The GOP used to pride itself as a party that put values front and center in US foreign policy. Now--as they debase themselves at the altar of Trump--they are the party of ethnic cleansing," linking to a story about then-President Donald Trump saying he would withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said Kahl's "intemperate manner will create a toxic environment in the Pentagon."
He told Kahl, "If this is the way you respond to mere policy disagreements when you're sitting at home reading the news, I do not think that you're fit to sit in the Pentagon and make decisions about life and death."
Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, called the Republicans going after Kahl over mean tweets "pretty rich" after years of the party excusing and outright ignoring Trump's tweets, which she said were regularly inflammatory and bolstered conspiracy theories that ended up playing a major role in igniting the mob that assaulted the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Kahl apologized for his tweets, telling the panel he got "swept up" in the polarizing social media environment.
"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," he said.
Republicans also took issue with Kahl's policy positions, specifically the nuclear deal with Iran, and complained that he repeatedly retweeted media stories about Trump's ties to Russia and Moscow's interference in the 2016 election.
And they lashed out over Kahl's incorrect prediction that certain Trump actions would lead to wars with North Korea and Iran. However, there are examples of spiking tensions with the countries during the Trump administration, such as when Iran launched missiles at an American base, injuring 110 U.S. troops.
If all GOP senators oppose Kahl's nomination, Biden can't afford to lose any Democratic support in the Senate, which is divided evenly between the parties.
-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.