Another Democrat refused to offer a vote of confidence in Defense nominee Chuck Hagel yesterday. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday that he wants to “reserve judgment” on Hagel, and expressed disappointment with colleagues who have immediately and irrevocably decided on their positions without first hearing from Hagel. However, Blumenthal has significant concerns about Hagel’s record and wants answers to a number of questions arising from them (via The Corner):
Blumenthal predicted Hagel would get his confirmation, although not from Hagel’s answers or record but based on the history of nominations and confirmations. That history does show that Presidents normally get the benefit of the doubt, but it’s not a slam dunk, either. John Tower once sat in Hagel’s seat, nominated by George H. W. Bush, and ended up on the wrong end of a 47-53 vote on confirmation. Tower was also known for antagonizing members of the upper chamber when he served in his four terms in the Senate, and the “club” didn’t come to his rescue in the end. Dick Cheney ended up with the job.
At any rate, Blumenthal doesn’t sound like he’ll oppose Hagel in the end, but this was hardly a vote of confidence in Obama’s choice to lead Defense. If Chuck Schumer ends up opposing Hagel, Blumenthal could end up following his lead, too. It again raises the question of just how much groundwork the White House did with its fellow Democrats before making this decision, because whatever was done certainly looks pretty ineffective now. The most robust defense of Hagel in the past two weeks came from Colin Powell, who won’t get a vote.
Update, 1/15/13: I originally wrote that Caspar Weinberger was the second choice for Bush 41’s SecDef, but Weinberger was Reagan’s final SecDef. It was Dick Cheney who ended up with the job. Thanks to reader David G for the correction.