Republican Nebraska Sen. Mike Johanns has reportedly announced his support for Hagel’s nomination, which makes it extremely unlikely that there are enough votes to filibuster even if there were an interest in doing so. Not only has the anti-Hagel campaign evidently failed, but it has also done lasting damage to the GOP in what was always very likely to be a vain effort to scuttle a major Cabinet nomination. The last time that the GOP found itself this isolated on the wrong side of a major national security vote was probably during the ratification debate over New START.
As in the New START debate, former and current national security officials were strongly and almost unanimously in favor of something that should have been easily approved, and most Republicans in the Senate opposed it anyway. As they were during the treaty ratification debate, Republican objections to Hagel have been spurious, made in bad faith, and driven by ideological preoccupations that reflect the views of a third of their own party at most. It appears that they have lost in both cases, and both efforts have ended up making them appear ridiculous. Anti-treaty Republicans made fools of themselves by fighting an arms control measure that was more modest than anything previous Republican presidents had embraced, and this week anti-Hagel Republicans have managed to embarrass themselves with their continued hostility to the idea of containment.
Since Bush and the GOP were repudiated at the polls in 2006, the party has had several opportunities to correct their disastrous foreign policy thinking, and it has failed to take advantage of a single one. The party missed its first chance when it marched virtually in lockstep in support of the “surge,” and then proceeded to blow the next opportunity when McCain became the nominee in 2008. The next four years were a series of missed chances to improve the party’s policies and image, including opposition to New START, and all of this was capped off by a nomination contest and general election campaign dominated by “omni-directional belligerence,” a bidding war to establish which candidate would be the most obsequious supporter of Israel, and repeated confirmations that a Republican victory would take the country back to the policies of the Bush era. At each step, the GOP’s leaders were declaring that they had no interest in relevant expertise or specialized knowledge, and affirming that their position would always be among the more hawkish and irresponsible ones available. Worst of all for Republicans, their leaders don’t even realize that they are sabotaging the party for years to come.