I’ve no idea how former Nebraska senator and decorated Vietnam War veteran Chuck Hagel became President Obama’s preferred nominee for the job of Secretary of Defense. But when I learned about Hagel’s prospects, I was delighted. A social conservative with a skeptical view of America’s mission to convert the rest of the world to our current version of democracy, Hagel is someone I’ve long admired. Indeed I was hoping his campaign for president would take off four years ago. (Alas, it didn’t.)

For about a week after Hagel’s name surfaced as a possibility for Secretary of Defense, I was also hoping that his nomination would sail through the Senate effortlessly. I no longer think that’s the case. The Log Cabin Republicans yesterday took out a full-page New York Times advertisement to attack Hagel, who once voiced objections to having those who are openly gay serving in the military. He also objected to the muzzling of free speech in what looked like hate speech laws. His opponents have scolded him for being deficient in sensitivity, and in our politically correct democracy that may be the worst possible offense that any mortal could commit.

Leading the charge against Hagel has been the neocon press, with the Weekly Standard out in front of the pack. It seems that Hagel has fought with AIPAC and even once misspoke when he referred to his trouble with “the Jewish lobby.” He later took this back and stated that he meant “the Israeli lobby.” It’s not that the former Senator has disagreed consistently with Israeli policies, and most of the time in the Senate he came down with the rest of his party behind the Israeli government. But Hagel has expressed reservations about his party always lining up on one side in the Middle Eastern conflict and has suggested this degree of partisanship weakens the credibility of Republicans as possible peace brokers. Hagel also made fun of those Republicans (such as Lindsay Graham and John McCain) who went beyond the lobby in their enthusiasm for everything the Israelis did. McCain was rewarded for his cheer-leading with about 20 percent of the Jewish vote in a presidential race against the most pro-Palestinian Democratic candidate in U.S. history.

The neocons have gone after Hagel for being anti-Israeli and by implication anti-Semitic. They’ve also pulled out every charge that the left might care to feature about Hagel being a social reactionary who is too far on the right to represent us as secretary of defense. The neocons (including Fox News contributors) have attacked him repeatedly as a homophobe. But their main charge has been that Hagel once had kind words for the 95-year-old South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, at a birthday party Hagel and other senators attended. Supposedly Hagel made it appear that he was cool with Thurmond’s one-time segregationist record by praising the then almost senile senator’s “life well lived.” Apparently he should have pummeled the decrepit Southern lawmaker instead.

Reading this kind of slime (there is no other word for this invective) I almost feel relief that Obama was reelected as president. The thought of that weathervane Romney presiding over a government packed to the top with Bill Kristol’s buddies is far more frightening than any reckless spending program Obama has inflicted on us. I shudder to think that the main resistance to the leftist media and educational establishment in this country is coming from Bill’s boss and kindred spirit, Rupert Murdoch, who pays for Fox News and the Wall Street Journal. It is appalling that the “conservative” opposition is being funded by this Australian media baron, who is “conservative” on only one issue, an aggressive foreign policy.

The neocons are too powerful for GOP propagandists and establishment conservative journalists to defy. If they decide to pull the right leftward once again, they’re likely to get their way. It won’t be the first time they’ve prevailed. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the neocons upend Hagel while winning applause from both the social left and Christian Zionists in the GOP. I may be wrong, but after having seen the neocons win almost every battle they’ve entered for more than 30 years, I would be astonished to see them lose. Here’s hoping for a change in their fortunes, however, as we go into the New Year!