It will be revealing about the state of liberalism and the condition of the Democratic party if there are none. It wasn’t pleasant in 2005 for conservatives and Republicans to oppose a nominee—in this case a close friend—of a president they supported. It certainly wasn’t pleasant to seem to give any comfort to the president’s critics. Still, to use a corny but apt expression, it was the right thing to do. And a willingness to do it was a sign of the health of American conservatism.

American liberalism shows no such sign of health. 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.