The Senate easily confirmed Ashton Carter as defense secretary today, and while he's got plenty of international problems to wrestle with, the Wall Street Journal suggests that his biggest challenge might be overcoming White House micromanagement. Predecessors Robert Gates and Leon Panetta complained of it, and Chuck Hagel was forced out after a relatively brief stint. Mitch McConnell touched on it in offering his endorsement for the 60-year-old Carter, reports AP: "The incoming secretary needs to have the courage to speak truth to power—to Congress, yes, but also to his commander in chief."
Gates tells USA Today that it might not be a problem this time around. "The difference is that Ash has served more than five years with this administration," he says. "So he knows this president; this president knows him. He knows all the players at multiple levels. They will be familiar to him, and he to them. That'll make a big difference." Carter, who happens to be a physicist by training, is expected to be sworn in as Obama's fourth defense chief next week. In today's 93-5 vote, only Republican Sens. Roy Blunt, Mike Crapo, Mark Kirk, John Boozman, and James Risch voted against Carter, reports Stars and Stripes. (Read more defense secretary stories.)