There once was a time when the White House used to carefully vet their potential nominees not just to see whether they qualified for their appointments, but also whether their past statements and positions would end up embarrassing them. At the very least, they’d check in with their own party’s Senate caucus to see whether the nominee would hit serious resistance.
“I’m not going to comment until the President makes a nomination” is code for “Mr. President, don’t make this nomination.” Even Andrea Mitchell figured this much out, although she’s not quite up to speed on why:
“The problem that Chuck Hagel has is … he’s now getting shot at from the left and the right because of his past comments, which he has now retracted and apologized for against gays,” Mitchell explained on NBC.
The comments about gays was only one part of Hagel’s problem, and not the major problem. Much more problematic, especially for Schumer and other members of the Senate, are Hagel’s past statements about a “Jewish lobby” controlling US policy, and stands on Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas that put Hagel to the left of Barack Obama and well into a political fringe.
None of this should have come as a surprise to the White House. Hagel made all of those statements very publicly, and took criticism for them at the time. The Obama administration, however, has been singularly poor at vetting its Cabinet choices. Anyone remember the trial balloons of Bill Richardson and Tom Daschle, for instance? Or the actual appointment of Tim Geithner to run the Treasury Department when he had gotten in trouble for failing to file his income taxes? The Hagel bust isn’t an anomaly; it’s business as usual at the White House.