TIME Congress

How Will Congress React to Ferguson Decision?

Rand Paul TIME 100
Win McNamee—Getty Images

Capitol Hill's response to the Darren Wilson decision may be limited to empathy

As the fires of unrest smolder in Ferguson, Mo., some members of Congress expressed their solidarity with the protesters of the Michael Brown grand jury verdict sparring police officer Darren Wilson from charges connected to the August 9 shooting.

“I know this [is] hard,” tweeted Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, the civil rights hero, on Monday. “I know this is difficult. Do not succumb to the temptations of violence. There is a more powerful way.”

“Only love can overcome hate,” he added. “Only nonviolence can overcome violence.”

But the official response from Capitol Hill may not amount to much more than empathy, as the Republican leaders who control both chambers of Congress next year appear unlikely to support efforts reigning in police departments from obtaining Pentagon gear like mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles. Such bills aren’t focused on reducing incidents like the Brown shooting but the danger in the aftermath, in which protesters are confronted by a threatened police force with military-grade weapons and technology.

After the Brown shooting, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri led hearings diving into the lack of police training with such weapons and if police departments should have to purchase body cameras before obtaining military equipment. In September, McCaskill announced some of the results of her investigation, finding that over a third of the supposedly “excess” military equipment provided to police departments was barely used, if at all. She also found police departments armed for Iraq-level warfare, with 49 of 50 states having more MRAP vehicles than their state’s National Guard. McCaskill recently told BuzzFeed that she would continue her efforts to investigate how the police are trained, but stopped short of calling to bar the departments from receiving military equipment in the first place.

“We learned we have no oversight and the people that are doing these programs aren’t even talking to one another and there hasn’t been any rhyme or reason to who’s received this equipment, whether or not they’ve been trained, and how they are utilizing it,” she told BuzzFeed. “So we’re now looking more at an oversight function of those issues. I’ve visited with other senators who are interested, including some of my Republican colleagues, and we’re going to try and sit down between now and the first of the year and see if we can come up with some guidelines.”

Her Democratic colleagues in the House appear to be pretty glum about the prospects for reforming how the police obtain Pentagon equipment.

A spokesman for Georgia Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson, who plans on reintroducing his bill to limit police militarization next session, sees the effort as “really an education campaign” due to opposition from Republican leadership, according to the Huffington Post. But Democrats are also divided if there should be an outright ban on transfer of this equipment or if there should simply be more stringent requirements and training for officers who will use it.

Some libertarian-minded Republicans have also joined the call to demilitarize the police, including Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who wrote in a TIME op-ed less than a week after the Brown shooting that “there should be a difference between a police response and a military response.” On Tuesday, Paul’s office confirmed that he will introduce his own bill addressing police militarization next year. He’s working with retiring Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn on the legislation and will talk to other senators “over the coming months” to garner support, according to an aide.

TIME politics

Why We Loved Marion Barry

D.C. Council member Marion Barry
D.C. Council member Marion Barry poses for a portrait in his office in Washington, D.C., on July 6, 2011. Nikki Kahn—The Washington Post/Getty Images

Anita Bonds is an At-Large Councilmember at the District of Columbia.

Washington's "Mayor for Life" is remembered by his former campaign manager

The twenty-third of November forever marks the death of a legend.

Mayor for Life, Marion Barry was a prodigious politician, a once in a lifetime talent, and a man of the community who was eternally beloved by the people he served. It was here, the District of Columbia, where Marion decided to make his home, it is where his people are, it’s where he fought, and it is in this great city on a hill where his legacy will most fervently live on.

The Washington Post once aptly wrote that “to know the District of Columbia is to know Marion Barry.” Mayor Barry’s narrative: his triumphs, his achievements, his setbacks, and his phoenix-like political career, defines a transformative era in Washington, one where the community’s hopes and dreams once deferred, became fulfilled.

The District’s annals are ubiquitously wrought with the struggles of African Americans seeking the dignity of self-determination. Blacks whose ancestors were brought here as slaves to build the nation’s capital where democracy was carried out, but for whom participation was excluded and fiercely restricted by powerful whites.

Marion changed that. His perspective was that anyone regardless of background could bring about change for the betterment of every citizen in the District of Columbia.

In 1979 Marion was the right mayor at the right time, expressing compassion for the poor and the voiceless. He entered office with the clear intent to give representation to populations in need of a champion to help them benefit from a District landscape on the rise against the backdrop of social ills that beset many American urban centers during the 1980s. He breathed life into the community. Because of his advocacy, hope replaced nihilism, promise replaced despair, and bridges to the middle class replaced poverty for many. Those who won’t remember all the details of Mayor Barry’s achievements will always remember how he made them feel.

His legacy teaches us a lesson in self-belief. It is nearly impossible to predict how one man, born of a sharecropper’s son in segregated Mississippi, became Mayor of the nation’s capital, helped create the black middle class, and became the hero of hundreds of thousands of residents. His self-belief was partly born of his natural intuition for dealing with people, but also a consequence of clarity in his life’s mission — serving people. Marion was always drawn to helping the most vulnerable. It was providence that Marion was the President of his college NAACP, the first President of the SNCC, a leader in PRIDE Inc., a program of free food distribution for poor black residents, school board member, and ultimately Mayor of the District Columbia.

Many will say his death marks the end of an era, many will say he represents a time long gone, many who know nothing of the man will attempt to impugn is legacy. And to them I say: Have you ever spoken to the individuals whose lives he touched as I did? Did you ever witness him fiercely fighting for the most vulnerable members of society, as I did? And do you know the cheer that he brought to his friends as he brought to me? If not, then you will never know why we cherished his presence so greatly.

As his passing is mourned, we can be comforted in knowing that his legacy and love for the District will continue through the renaissance of DC, which he began, and the millions of lives he touched in doing so.

Anita Bonds is an At-Large Councilmember at the District of Columbia. Councilmember Bonds was a political staffer on Marion Barry’s 1974 DC Council campaign; the Deputy Campaign Manager for Barry’s 1978 mayoral campaign; and the Campaign Manager for Marion Barry’s 1982 and 1986 mayoral campaign.

 

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Immigration

How to Argue About Immigration Over Thanksgiving

thanksgiving
Getty Images

Here's what you should say to your aunt or uncle

Americans may be living in states, cities and even neighborhoods that are divided politically, but there’s one place where people of all political stripes meet: the Thanksgiving table.

This year, that means it’s pretty likely that you’ll be debating President Obama’s recent recent executive actions on immigration with a relative who sees things very differently.

But if you want to make the best case for your side, you’ll need to prepare. Below, we’ve put together a guide to how to argue about immigration while you wait for the turkey to cook.

If you talk about amnesty:

And you support Obama: “Obama isn’t giving anyone ‘amnesty.’ He’s just deferring deportations for three years. There’s no official pardon.”

Facts to back you up: The deferrals will only last through 2017, when it would be up to the next president whether to continue the program.

And you oppose Obama: “It doesn’t matter what you call it. Obama’s allowing people who came to the country illegally to stay.”

Facts to back you up: The deferral program applies to as many as four million undocumented immigrants who have no criminal record and pay back taxes.

If you talk about past presidents:

And you support Obama: “Reagan and the first President Bush both took similar actions to let undocumented immigrants stay.”

Facts to back you up: Ronald Reagan signed a 1986 law that granted amnesty to three million undocumented immigrants, while George H.W. Bush allowed family members to stay in 1990.

And you oppose Obama: “That was different. Congress had already passed a law granting amnesty. This time, Obama is going against the will of Congress.”

Facts to back you up: Congress passed the 1986 overhaul on bipartisan lines and later made Bush’s 1990 order permanent with another law.

If you talk about presidential power:

And you support Obama: “Immigration is not like other issues. The president has legal discretion to decide whether or not to deport people.”

Facts to back you up: The Supreme Court has long said that the president has the power to decide whether or not to prosecute a case.

And you oppose Obama: “Today it’s immigration. Tomorrow it’ll be a Republican president deciding not to enforce tax laws. Where does it end?”

Facts to back you up: When asked in 2013 what he could do to stop deportations, Obama said he was “not the emperor of the United States.”

If you talk about politics:

And you support Obama: “Congress had plenty of time to pass a bill. Obama’s just getting around classic Washington gridlock.”

Facts to back you up: The Senate’s bipartisan immigration bill passed on June 27, 2013, and Obama waited until Nov. 21, 2014, to sign the actions — nearly 17 months.

And you oppose Obama: “Obama signed this just before Republicans took control of Congress. Good luck getting them to work with him.”

Facts to back you up: After the midterm elections, House Speaker John Boehner said that if Obama acted alone on immigration he would “poison the well.”

TIME

Morning Must Reads: November 25

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

Ferguson Erupts as Cop Cleared

A prosecutor’s announcement late Monday that a grand jury declined to indict Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting unarmed black teenager Michael Brown sparked renewed violent protests in the St. Louis suburb throughout the night

Understanding the Cosby Scandal

Here’s a cheat sheet to understanding a scandal that mixes old allegations and new; 16 women have publicly accused the comedian of sexual assault

Why Chuck Hagel Resigned

The Defense Secretary is stepping down less than two years into the job, after his low-profile demeanor was deemed ill-suited for ISIS fight

FDA Beefs Up Calorie Count Requirements

Regulators on Tuesday will announce new rules mandating that a wider array of businesses than ever before display calorie counts for their food and alcoholic beverages, including chain restaurants, movie theaters, and even vending machines

Your Thanksgiving Travel Will Be Snarled by Snow

Roads north and west of I-95 will likely be blanketed by snow Wednesday night, and the National Weather Service says the New York area could see 6 to 10 in. of snow. Travelers should expect clogged roads and airport delays up and down the east coast into Thursday

Americans Divided Over Obama’s Immigration Moves

Americans are sharply split on their reaction to President Barack Obama’s recent executive actions to protect about five million undocumented immigrants from deportation and give them temporary legal status, according to a new poll

Toy Guns Create Deadly Problems for Police

The death of a 12-year-old boy named Tamir Rice, who was killed by Cleveland police after they mistook his novelty gun for a real one in a public park, is the most recent example of what can happen when police mistake a play weapon for a real firearm

Why Detroit Schools Are Courting Middle-Class Parents

Detroit school officials are pursuing the city’s high percentage of middle-class families in an attempt revitalize its troubled school system. But to significantly improve, the school system needs more students – and the money that comes with them

Gwen Stefani and Pharrell Are at It Again

The pair are no strangers—most memorably, they collaborated together on Stefani’s 2005 hit “Hollaback Girl”—and they’re at it again, this time for her latest single, “Spark the Fire.” Stefani hasn’t released a new album since 2006’s The Sweet Escape

U.N. Will Miss Dec. 1 Goal for Containing Ebola

The U.N. mission responsible for responding to the Ebola outbreak will miss its Dec. 1 target for containing the disease because of rising transmission rates in the West African countries of Sierra Leone and Mali. The mission chief said fresh setbacks made the target impossible

Casablanca Piano Sells for $3.4 Million

The piano on which Ilsa famously asked Sam to play “As Time Goes By” in Casablanca was sold at a New York auction on Monday for $3.4 million. A miniature instrument and golden yellow in color, the piano is hard to recognize as an iconic prop from the 1942 blockbuster

Western New York Prepares for Floods

New York officials warned that the record-breaking amount of snow blanketing the western parts of the state might wreak more havoc, as warmer weather threatens to inundate the area with water

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TIME Immigration

Americans Divided Over Obama’s Immigration Moves

Obama Statement On Ferguson Grand Jury Verdict
President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 24, 2014. Kristoffer Tripplaar—dpa/Corbis

An almost even split on controversial executive actions

Americans are sharply split on their reaction to President Barack Obama’s recent executive actions to protect about five million undocumented immigrants from deportation and give them temporary legal status, according to a new poll.

The Quinnipiac University survey released Tuesday found that 45% of voters support the President’s immigration moves, while 48% oppose them. The poll also shows support for immigrants at its lowest level ever measured by Qunnipiac: 48% of voters say undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay with a path to citizenship, down from 57% in November of 2013. And 35% say undocumented immigrants should be required to leave the U.S., up from 26% a year ago.

“Americans look at immigration reform with ambivalence,” said assistant Quinnipiac polling Tim Malloy said.

Within the Latino community the story is different: A poll conducted by Latino Decisions and commissioned by two pro-immigration reform groups found that almost 90% of Latino voters “support” or “strongly support” Obama’s executive action.

The Quinnipiac poll of 1,623 registered voters, conducted Nov. 18-23, had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

TIME White House

Obama on Ferguson Grand-Jury Decision: ‘This Is an Issue for America’

President Obama made a statement after the grand-jury announcement Monday evening

President Barack Obama appealed for calm Monday evening after the announcement that a grand jury declined to indict the Ferguson, Mo., police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown after an encounter in August.

Speaking from the White House about an hour after St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced the long-awaited decision involving the officer, Darren Wilson, Obama called for the incident to spark a larger discussion of race issues in America.

“We need to recognize that the situation in Ferguson speaks to the broader challenges we still face as a nation,” he said. “In too many parts of this country, a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color.”

Obama urged all sides to show restraint, keeping in line with the Brown family’s wishes. “There’s inevitably going to be some negative reaction, and it’ll make for good TV,” he said, while also asking law-enforcement officials to “show care and restraint” in dealing with peaceful protesters in Ferguson and around the country.

As he spoke, television news networks aired split-screen video footage of police deploying tear gas and smoke grenades at demonstrators, a small number of whom turned violent soon after the decision was announced.

Obama cautiously avoided wading into the substance of the grand jury’s decision. “We need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make,” he said. “It’s an outcome that, either way, was going to be a subject of intense disagreement not only in Ferguson, but across America.”

Brown’s death and the subsequent protests in the St. Louis suburb captured national attention this summer, prompting multiple presidential statements that requested calm. At the time, Obama also ordered the Department of Justice to carry out an independent investigation of the incident, which is ongoing.

The President has historically tiptoed around discussing the issue of race, but has gradually become more vocal since the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012. That includes launching the My Brother’s Keeper initiative last year to help young men of color. He has also deployed outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder to work with law enforcement in Ferguson and elsewhere to help ease tensions.

Obama held out the possibility in his remarks that he might visit Ferguson, but no trip is expected until the situation in the city calms down.

TIME cities

Marion Barry and the Legacy of America’s Black Mayors

DC Councilman Marion Barry may be facing censure after a council vote today.
Marion Barry at a DC Council Meeting, March 2, 2010. Linda Davidson—The Washington Post/Getty Images

"Within 15 years you went from having racially segregated water fountains to African-American mayors."

As a person and a politician, former Washington, D.C., mayor Marion Barry Jr. left a conflicted legacy: a charismatic voice for the voiceless whose legacy was scarred by a 1990 arrest for cocaine possession among a collection of other scandals.

As a black mayor who held office in the nation’s capital in the wake of the civil rights movement, Barry was part of an unmatched era in our nation’s political history.

“The importance of the moment cannot be overstated,” says Jeffrey Adler, a history professor at the University of Florida. “In some cities, within 15 years you went from having racially segregated water fountains to African-American mayors.”

Between 1967 — when Cleveland’s Carl Stokes became the first black person elected as mayor of a major U.S. city — and 1995 around 400 African Americans had been elected to lead American cities both large and small, according to Adler. By the late ’80s, Washington, Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and even Birmingham, Ala., had all had elected black mayors. Adler calls it a stunning transformation given the nation was barely two decades removed from Jim Crow.

“There was a joke around the time the first black man was elected mayor of Newark, that went something like ‘But, who would want to be mayor of Newark?’” recalls David Dinkins, who was elected as the first and only black mayor of New York City in 1990. “It was a tough time, but it was also a moment of significance that some of us were able to ascend and to reach high offices.”

The impact of that achievement meant a lot to people beyond just the political realm, Dinkins says, calling mayors the “ Jackie Robinsons and Althea Gibsons of their era.” Yet, black mayors, including Barry who was first elected in 1978, came to power at a time when the urban areas they led were rife with issues. Blacks had ascended in the wake of Jim Crow-era policies, but the cities they often occupied were in decline. Unemployment and crime rates were high. And as more blacks migrated to urban centers, more whites migrated out.

“It was summed up well by first President Bush,” says Kurt Schmoke, the first black person elected mayor of Baltimore. “There was more will than wallet. You had an electorate that hoped you could achieve a great deal, but resources were limited.”

Among the high-profile group of black mayors, Barry had some of the greatest impact on marginalized communities—the Washington Post calls him a”national symbol of self-governance for urban blacks”— but he has also had some of the most visible shortcomings. In the eyes of his critics and detractors, the work he did to provide jobs for youth and bring business to blighted areas was overshadowed by a fateful night at the Vista Hotel, where an FBI sting birthed the phrase “bitch set me up” and led to a circus-like trial, a stint in federal prison and, eventually, to a political redemption with another term as mayor and a city council seat he held until his death.

Barry, who long ago earned the moniker “mayor for life,” was long past his political prime when he died, and to many, he remained an imperfect figure. But still, his years as mayor were inspiration to some.

He was a transitional figure whose roots in the civil rights movement were a major factor in his governing, says Kurt Schmoke, the first black person elected mayor of Baltimore. Schmoke, who served as mayor from 1987 to 1999, credits Barry with helping him to “mold his approach to office” in his early years.

“Mayor Barry’s career certainly was tainted, but I hope people will remember the full context of a long career,” Schmoke says.” There was a time when he was a real contributing member not only to the African-American community, but to society as a whole.”

TIME Congress

Rand Paul’s Declaration of War Against ISIS Divides Civil Libertarians

Georgia Senate Candidate David Perdue Campaigns With Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks to an audience of supporters of Georgia Senate candidate David Perdue during a campaign stop in McDonough, Ga. on Oct. 24, 2014. Jessica McGowan—Getty Images

Some think a formal declaration of war would set limits, others worry where it would lead

Less than a week after rebuffing civil libertarians over a National Security Agency reform bill, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has divided them over a new draft to declare war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria and strip the authority President Obama uses to fight terrorism across the Middle East. Paul released his draft Monday and intends on introducing it in December.

The measure would set unprecedented limits on the Obama Administration, defining ISIS as the enemy and limiting ground combat forces to protect U.S. armed forces from “imminent danger,” attack “high value targets” and advise intelligence operations. The authorization only lasts for a year before Congress would have to re-up it.

The chances of the bill passing the president’s desk are slim, so to say—Congress has not declared war since World War II—but it is interesting as it puts a likely Republican presidential contender on the same side as the New York Times editorial board on the question over whether or not the U.S. needs to act under a new legal authority to fight ISIS while dividing civil libertarians.

Some civil libertarians, angered by Obama and former president George W. Bush, who used authority granted by Congress in 2001 and 2002 to fight the War on Terror years later, praised the measure as an attempt to finally restore the checks and balance system.

“It is the most muscular and assertive use of congressional authority under the Constitution of any of the proposals that are out there so far,” says Chris Anders, a senior legislative counsel in the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington Legislative Office. “We have a president deciding on his own once again to take the country to war without following the Constitution.”

Anders said that Paul could be more specific in defining the objective, enemy and geographic limitations, but thinks that with additional information and hearings Paul can tighten up his draft.

“I think given the information that is available right now, that’s probably about as good as you can do,” he said.

While Paul will face fierce opposition from the scores of defense hawks on Capitol Hill, he is not alone in providing the Administration with new authority to fight ISIS. A spokesman for Democratic California Rep. Adam Schiff, who has pushed along with Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Robert Menendez of New Jersey for new congressional authorization, found a few things he liked in Paul’s plan, including the new limits on the length of the mission and how troops are used.

“Senator Paul’s resolution tracks the bill introduced by Rep. Schiff in key respects—repealing the 2002 authorization, sunsetting the new authority and the 2001 authorization contemporaneously, and limiting the use of ground troops against [ISIS],” says Patrick Boland, Schiff’s spokesman. “While the limitations on ground troops differ in key respects, Senator Paul’s bill is another important contribution to the debate over a new war authorization and adds support to the effort Senator Kaine and Schiff have been making to press for a Congressional debate and action on this key issue during the lame duck session—hopefully his entry into this debate will help jumpstart the conversation on a new authorization which should begin immediately.”

But Paul will face criticism from a vast array of viewpoints—from the Administration and foreign policy hawks to noninterventionists and civil libertarians, who are still smarting over Paul voting “nay” last week to debate a bill to reform the National Security Agency after arguing that it didn’t go far enough. Anders called it a “real mistake” and the “best opportunity this year to rein in the surveillance program.” He added, however, “we have to deal with these issues one at a time.”

Paul could be in more trouble with other civil libertarians on the proposed declaration of war. The libertarian magazine Reason published an article Monday criticizing the lack of “meaningful restraint” for ground forces, noting the “slippery-slope nature of American military adventurism.” And John Mueller, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, told TIME that Paul would be better positioned as a noninterventionist, or as he calls it, on the “side of the angels.” Despite the viciousness of ISIS, Mueller believes that the threat has been “massively exaggerated” and that the notion of Islamic militants threatening the security of the United States is “vastly overblown.”

“If he really wanted to be smart on the merits of it politically, he could be the only candidate opposing getting involved in another miserable war in the Middle East,” says Mueller of Paul.

“The danger with declaring war is that you’re stuck with it,” he said. “That’s a real disadvantage.”

TIME intelligence

New NSA Privacy Chief Promises Transparency

NSA Surveillance-Privacy Report
The National Security Agency campus in Fort Meade, Md., June 6, 2013. Patrick Semansky—AP

In a Q&A online, Rebecca Richards promised a new era in transparency at the United States’ eavesdropping agency

The National Security Agency’s newly appointed Civil Liberties & Privacy Officer Rebecca Richards said Monday in an online Q& A she hopes to inject a sense of transparency into the secretive spy agency.

“Until somewhat recently, relatively little information about NSA was public. And the information that was made available rarely discussed the safeguards in place to protect civil liberties and privacy,” Richards said. “One of my goals is to share what NSA does to protect civil liberties and privacy. This will take time, but we must start somewhere.”

Richards conducted an online question and answer session Monday through the website of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Richards position was create earlier this year following recommendations from the White House on privacy reforms within the NSA. Those recommendations were made in response to revelations of privacy violations contained in documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Much of her Q&A was little more than a defense of the agency but Richards did identify her four primary goals as privacy chief.

  1. Advise NSA leadership including the director.
  2. Build systematic and holistic civil liberties and privacy processes.
  3. Improve civil liberties and privacy protections through research, education, and training.
  4. Increase transparency.

Richards also revealed that the NSA is preparing to launch a privacy and civil liberties internship or work exchange program as part of its privacy initiative.

TIME Military

New Defense Secretary, Same Old Strategy

Obama Announces Resignation Of Chuck Hagel As Defense Secretary
President Obama listens as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announces he is resigning after less than two years as defense chief. Alex Wong / Getty Images

Hagel's sudden departure fixes the wrong problem—the lack of a clear, achievable ISIS strategy

Last week, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel declared that the U.S. war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria was on track. “There’s no official review of any of the decisions that the President has made, or strategy,” Hagel told Charlie Rose.

This week, he’s out of his Pentagon job, even as the same old Obama Anti-ISIS Express continues barreling down that track.

So how much change can be expected following Hagel’s announcement Monday that he is leaving the Defense Department’s top civilian post after 20 months? Or, by handing Hagel his walking papers, is President Obama now suggesting his ISIS strategy is fine?

Washington immediately began debating the reasons for Hagel’s surprising departure. Obama supporters argued that Hagel’s low-key demeanor made him a good choice two years ago, when the issues were winding down wars and budget cuts, but ill-fitted to the offensive U.S. military push ISIS now needs. His backers blamed an insular National Security staff that shut him out of key decisions that led to bad blood between the White House and Pentagon.

Current and former Obama Administration officials say the problem was more policy than personnel. The roots of the problem, they say, are closer to the Oval Office—involving close-hold decision-making by Obama, Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough and National Security Adviser Susan Rice—than at the Pentagon.

“Not sure what kind of Kool-Aid they are drinking if they think that getting rid of Hagel—and not the National Security Advisor who’s flailing to handle the [ISIS] problem—is going to make things better,” one former Obama Administration official says.

Hagel’s leaving “is not an obvious fix for what seems to be ailing the administration,” says Peter Feaver, a civil-military relations expert at Duke University. When President George W. Bush eased out Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in 2006 (also following a White House drubbing in midterm elections), it included changing strategy by sending a surge of U.S. troops into Iraq.

“But there doesn’t seem to be any interest in the Obama administration to change the strategy,” Feaver adds. “What we have here is a change in personnel, without a change in policy.”

Retired Army general Jack Keane, who advocated for the surge in Iraq, says the White House has meddled with Pentagon prerogatives as the ISIS threat has grown over the past year, including videotaped beheadings of five Westerners, three of them American. “The policy is wrong and Hagel was pushing back on it,” Keane says, confirming what some Pentagon officials say privately.

Defense officials say White House meetings on dealing with ISIS often ended without a decision, which would be made later by Obama, aided by National Security Advisor Susan Rice and her deputy, Ben Rhodes. “That’s very frustrating for a secretary of defense,” Keane adds, “who feels on the outside when it comes to issues that are in their domain.”

Rice has long been a target inside the administration, even as she garnered sympathy as a Congressional scapegoat in the post-Benghazi hullaballoo. “The problems reach much higher than the secretary of defense,” a second Obama national-security aide said.

Much of Capitol Hill concurs. “The President needs to realize that the real source of his current failures on national security more often lie with his Administration’s misguided policies and the role played by his White House in devising and implementing them,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said. He’s the likely next chairman of the Armed Services Committee, which will confirm Hagel’s successor. “That is the real change we need right now,” McCain said in a statement.

Hagel fought for a tougher approach in Syria, and wrote a recent memo to Rice calling for more clarity about dictator Bashar Assad’s fate. Assad’s continued hold on power has bedeviled U.S. strategy toward ISIS, which is one of several rebel groups seeking to overthrown him. “Hagel had been a bit more hawkish on Syria,” Feaver says. “Perhaps replacing him is an indication that the President’s not going to be moving in a more hawkish direction there.”

Fat chance. Republican lawmakers are making clear following Hagel’s announcement that they want a new strategy for dealing with ISIS, as well as a new secretary of Defense.

– With reporting by Zeke Miller

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