Chuck Hagel appears to have botched his confirmation hearing. I didn’t see the hearing, but I suspect Daniel Larison gets this right:
Republican hard-liners have contributed to their party’s defeats in three of the last four elections, and they inflicted long-term damage on their party’s reputation on foreign policy by embracing the biggest foreign policy blunder in a generation, and now they are furious with Hagel because he’s one of the few national Republicans to recognize reality.
Though he wrote before the Hagel hearing, Damon Linker is thinking along the same path. Excerpt:
Yes, American power is formidable in many areas. But there’s an awful lot we cannot do — and at the top of the list is bending whole peoples and regions of the world to our will. In the multi-polar world we now inhabit, the U.S. will remain the single most powerful nation, but not by orders of magnitude. We will defend the nation’s borders and its interests. We will offer support to allies in those selective cases (NATO in Libya, France in Mali) when we judge that doing so really will be “good for America and good for the world.” But we will not be leading any crusades to transform (and liberalize) entire civilizations at the barrel of a gun. Why? Because the effort would fail — and failure is bad for America and bad for the world.
The president deserves our support in his attempt to adjust American expectations to fit the reality of a complicated, recalcitrant world — just as the GOP deserves our disdain for denying that same reality. Which is precisely what leading Republicans are doing in their efforts to block Obama’s choice to head the department of defense. What is it about Chuck Hagel that so rankles the right? Some cry anti-Semitism, but the charge is so groundless that Hagel’s critics have yet to produce a single shred of evidence to substantiate it. What is it, then, that supposedly disqualifies him from serving as secretary of defense? The answer: Hagel is a Republican who dares to believe that the use of American military force is only sometimes (as opposed to always) a good thing. That’s all it takes to provoke denunciations in today’s GOP.
Until that changes, the Republican Party will continue to be punished — and to earn its punishment — at the ballot box.
And yet, reading various accounts of the hearing, it appears that Hagel did a very poor job of defending himself. TAC’s Scott McConnell says Hagel behaved “like a docile and seemingly beaten dog” in the hearing. And here’s Jon Chait:
The liberal defense of Hagel has been dominated from the outset by enemy-of-my-enemy thinking. But while becoming the target of Bill Kristol’s smear machine may qualify you for sympathy, it does not inherently qualify you for a cabinet post. Hagel is not an anti-Semite. But there are plenty of non-anti-Semites out there who can make it through a confirmation hearing without suffering total public humiliation.
Hagel probably will get his post at the end. Historically, it requires a massive scandal to sink a cabinet nominee. They have never faced a filibuster, and the general presumption has been that a president deserves the latitude to name people to carry out his chosen policies.
But Hagel’s value proposition was supposed to be more than that – that he would be a commanding figure who could dominate the debate. The hearings cemented a buffoonish image Hagel will probably never shake and destroyed whatever value-over-replacement he could have brought as an advocate of Obama’s agenda. The Republicans are probably better off with a wounded Hagel in office than voting him down, and Obama can’t abandon him, either. The left-realists have lured Obama into a war that’s turned into a quagmire.
Again, I didn’t see the hearing. Did you? If so, what did you think?