Hapless, unqualified candidate likely to receive unanimous Democratic support for key cabinet post

Carl Levin gazes upon the future of “smart power” and sees … Chuck Hagel.

“I don’t think he’s going to lose any Democratic votes, that we know of,” Sen. Carl Levin told reporters after the hearing. “I think there’s at least a few Republicans who’ve already said, publicly, that they support his nomination.” When pushed, he could barely name two. “What I’ve heard—I’ve heard that Sen. Cochran, and I’ve heard Sen. Murkowski. That’s third hand. If nobody in this crew has heard that Sen. Murkowski is inclined, then I will withdraw that comment.”

Levin said that yesterday. As of 4:30 p.m. ET today, there are still zero Democratic defections. Is that because the caucus really is comfortable with a guy who can’t correctly state Obama’s position on Iran after weeks of rehearsal (presumably)? Or is it because the Dems are now counting on Republicans to go nuclear with a filibuster, which would solve their Hagel problem for them and let them engage in their favorite pastime, blaming the GOP for being obstructionist? Here’s a ringing endorsement of the candidate from inside the White House:

“It’s somewhere between baffling and incomprehensible,” a member of Mr. Obama’s own team of advisers on Iran said on Thursday night when asked about Mr. Hagel’s stumbling performance on the question during the all-day hearing. The worry was evident in the voice of the official, who would not speak on the record while criticizing the performance of the president’s nominee. For those who question whether the no-containment cornerstone of the Obama approach to Tehran is for real, or just diplomatic rhetoric, Mr. Hagel clearly muddled the message, he said.

Mr. Hagel’s flubbing of the answer was even more remarkable because in his prepared remarks to the committee, which were carefully vetted by the White House and then e-mailed to reporters before the hearing, he got the president’s position exactly right.

That’s what constitutes having done “a fine job” at the hearing, according to Jay Carney. Here’s what I can’t understand: Is there really no one in the galaxy of left-wing defense specialists (which Hagel isn’t, by the way, but let’s pretend) who dislikes Israel and can answer basic foreign-policy questions coherently? The number of Democrats who meet that job description can’t be small. If worse came to worst, surely O could find some well-qualified, moderately pro-Israel Pentagon expert to nominate who’d be willing to please his base by blaming the Iraq war on “a Zionist cabal” or using metaphors about “tentacles” to describe Israeli influence or whatever. The only reasons I can think of why Obama would insist on Hagel is because (a) they’re buds, just like, er, Bush and Harriet Miers, and (b) Hagel’s a Republican, which theoretically gives Obama “bipartisan” cover for all sorts of things. But if it wasn’t already clear before yesterday, it should be clear now that Hagel’s a true RINO; the vast majority of the GOP caucus will vote against him, and enthusiastically so. Given his performance at the hearing, I’d say odds are fair that he’ll replace Eric Holder as conservatives’ least favorite cabinet member going forward. How long is the “b-b-b-but he’s a Republican!” talking point going to work for O under those circumstances?

Via Newsbusters, here’s Scarborough and crew contemplating the spectacle of a patently unqualified nominee for the Defense department facing theatrical questioning from a tea-party favorite. Which part of the equation troubles them most, do you suppose? Exit question via lefty Jonathan Chait: “Whose terrible idea was it to nominate Hagel, anyway?”