Hagel’s goal Thursday was to consolidate [his Democratic support] by getting at least one Republican on the committee to come out for him. Democrats hold 14 of 26 seats on Senate Armed Services, and none of them have hinted that they oppose Hagel. It made sense for Hagel to be demure—more sense than it made, say, for Barack Obama to approach his first debate with Mitt Romney as a do-no-harm scenario.
But the result was a nominee who searched for words like he was trapped in a closet, grasping for a dropped flashlight. Democrats praised Hagel’s Vietnam service, to the extent that Hagel encouraged them to ask about policy instead. He couldn’t get granular on any of that, he said, but “if confirmed, I intend to know a lot more than I do.” Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, a Hagel supporter, asked a pillowy-soft question about the nominee’s conversations with the president. “When he asked me why am I qualified,” said Hagel, “I said I’m not.” This was campaign-profile talk transplanted with maximum awkwardness to a situation in which people wanted to hear about expertise…
During one break, Hagel turned to a friend in the rows directly behind him and joked wryly about how he had good speeches he’d never written down. The hearing continued. Hagel answered questions about another speech with “I don’t recall the event. I don’t recall the words. I don’t know the context.” The studied ignorance of modern judicial confirmation hearings had come to Armed Services, but the graft wasn’t taking.
Vice President Joseph R. Biden assured European leaders Saturday that the U.S. is not pursuing a policy of “containment” toward Iran, two days after U.S. Defense secretary-nominee Chuck Hagel mistakenly characterized the Obama administration’s policy.
“As President Obama has made clear to Iranian leaders, our policy is not containment — it is not containment,” Mr. Biden said at the annual Munich Security Conference in Germany. “It is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”
During his confirmation hearing Thursday, Mr. Hagel told the Senate Armed Services committee that the administration had a policy of “containment” toward the Iranian regime. After an aide slipped him a note minutes later, Mr. Hagel corrected himself and said, “We don’t have a position on containment.”
Defense analysts and congressional aides say that Hagel’s rough confirmation hearing and a near party-line vote that’s expected on the Senate floor will sap what little political capital he may have had heading into the top Pentagon job.
One GOP aide knowledgeable in defense issues said that Republican uneasiness over Hagel would make it much tougher to him reach deals over controversial issues in defense legislation than Obama’s first two Defense secretaries, Robert Gates and Leon Panetta.
“You need a strong, tough secretary of Defense to push back when he’s right, and not cave when he faces tough questions,” said the aide. “With a guy like Hagel, you don’t know that a deal you cut in the room is the deal you’ve got when he leaves. With Gates, and Panetta, at least you knew that.”…
“The way some of the Republicans behaved yesterday I think has the potential to hurt them much more than it does Chuck Hagel,” [one Democratic] official said. “He wants to work with Congress and he will, but it was hard to see yesterday how they’d want to work with him when they wouldn’t even let him answer basic questions.”
Liberals are pretending not to recognize that Hagel is manifestly unqualified. A few have the wit to argue in excuse that associate justice of the Supreme Court is a lifetime appointment while secretary of defense is not. On the other hand, the damage an incompetent secretary of defense could do over the next four years is very great.
Conservatives and Republicans will stand firm in opposing Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense. They will do so with a clear conscience, basing their opposition on his obvious unsuitability for the position. Are liberals and Democrats willing to sell their souls for . . . Chuck Hagel?…
Our brave men and women in uniform deserve better than Chuck Hagel. Are there any courageous liberal voices who will find it within themselves to say so? Are there a few courageous Democrats in the United States Senate who will announce that they will not consent to a secretary of defense unqualified for that high office? Is there even one Democratic senator who will hearken to President Kennedy’s admonition, “Sometimes party loyalty asks too much”?
There are over 300 million Americans, and another 20 million more Undocumented-Americans about to be fast-tracked down the soi-disant “path to citizenship.” Surely, from this vast talent pool, it should be possible to find someone who’s sufficiently interested in running the planet’s biggest military not to present himself on the world stage as a woozy, unfocused stumblebum. In an exquisite touch, responding to reports that Hagel was “ill-prepared,” someone in the White House leaked that he had been thoroughly “coached.” In other words, don’t blame us: We put him through the federally mandated Confirmation Hearing for Dummies course. He doesn’t have to be a competent defense secretary; he just has to play one on TV for a couple of hours. But even that’s too much to ask of an increasingly dysfunctional political system: The Senate disdains to pass a budget, 70 percent of U.S .Treasury debt is bought by the Federal Reserve, month-long negotiations to cut spending turn out in the final deal to increase spending . . . and the president’s choice of defense secretary tells the world he has no idea what our policy on Iran is.
Hagel may know nothing about Iran, but he’s an incisive expert on America.
During an appearance on Al Jazeera in 2009, a caller asked him about “the perception and the reality” that America is “the world’s bully” — and Hagel told viewers that he agreed. Confronted with this exchange by Senator Ted Cruz, Hagel floundered. There was no aide to slip him a note explaining that the incoming SecDef takes no formal position on whether or not his own nation is “the world’s bully.”
Ah, if only. In the chancelleries of Moscow, Beijing, Tehran, Cairo, Pyongyang, the world’s bullied are laughing their heads off.
Via the Washington Free Beacon.
Via the Daily Caller.