On one side are fierce Hagel critics such as McCain and Bill Kristol, Washington’s neocon-in-chief, who refuse to back down from their belief that the Iraq invasion of nearly a decade ago was just, and who continue to support the aggressive projection of U.S. military power abroad, especially in Syria. On the other side are Obama, Hagel, and others who warned—quite presciently—of the pitfalls of that policy, and who are running away from military intervention abroad at full speed, even as they ratchet up the “small footprint” use of drones.

And now the neocon hawks fear that, like Shakespeare’s Richard III, there will be no place for them at all in Obama’s “weak, piping time of peace.” It is truly the winter of their discontent.

Hagel’s most dogged enemies, particularly Kristol, used the nominee’s startlingly weak performance at last week’s confirmation hearing to attack him, yet again, as incompetent. “Has there ever been a more embarrassing confirmation hearing than Hagel’s for a major Cabinet position? For a minor Cabinet position? For a subcabinet position? We don’t know of one,” Kristol wrote in his neoconservative magazine, The Weekly Standard, this week. Kristol then attacked Obama and Democrats for being less than “profiles in courage” for supporting him: “Are liberals and Democrats willing to sell their souls for … Chuck Hagel?”