In short, if one accepts that most policy in this administration gets made at the White House (more so than in administrations with powerful secretaries of state and defense) then the defense job, as we saw with Leon Panetta, becomes one centered almost entirely on executive management. If the president wants the most bureaucratically adept and skillful budget manager, it sure isn’t going to be Hagel, even his defenders (and, interestingly, virtually all are tepid ones) would concede.

You come away wondering whether Hagel’s antipathy toward Israel and his anti-military bent aren’t precisely the reasons such a troublesome nominee who serves no political purpose remains under consideration. He may reassure Obama and provide reaffirmation of his own, albeit highly troubling view. But if the president wants to trash-talk Israel, he can always have lunch with the op-ed writers at the New York Times. If he wants someone who can credibly manage the Pentagon he might want to choose someone else.