Josh Marshall makes an observation related to what I’ve said about the Hagel fight before:
But the real driver of this drama is that it signals a real closing of the door on the Bush era.
Back in December, I wrote something similar:
Since late 2006, there has been a slow but real repudiation of some of the delusions of the first Bush term. Hagel’s appointment would represent a continuation of that process of repudiation.
It’s probably too strong to say that there is a “closing of the door on the Bush era” taking place right now, but Marshall is right that the fight over Hagel centers on Republican hard-liners’ continuing attachment to Bush-era foreign policy and the rejection of much of Bush’s legacy by everyone else. The odds are that you think Hagel is an uncontroversial or good selection if you understand that Bush-era foreign policy was a disaster. Cabinet nominees shouldn’t be selected solely because they represent repudiations of failed policies, but it is a welcome additional bonus.
The more important thing to remember is that Hagel is a good choice on the merits. If all that you know about Hagel is what you saw during his confirmation hearing, or what someone else summarized about that hearing for you, that’s something that can be overlooked. Michael Hirsh explains some of Hagel’s qualifications:
But what has gone largely unnoted by the punditocracy is that, over the past decade or so, the former Republican senator from Nebraska has distinguished himself with subtle, well-thought-out, and accurate analyses of some of America’s greatest strategic challenges of the 21st century–especially the response to 9/11–while many of his harshest critics got these issues quite wrong.