Last month, I said that the campaign against Hagel resembled the application of ideological litmus tests to the confirmation of Supreme Court nominees. That might have seemed a stretch at the time, but it still seems right. Jennifer Rubin expresses her desire that Hagel be Borked by his former colleagues:
If Republicans had nervy firebrands like the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, someone would rise up to declare, “Chuck Hagel’s America is a land in which gays would be forced back in the closet and Jews would be accused of dual loyalty. Chuck Hagel’s world is one in which devastating defense cuts become a goal, not a problem; we enter direct talks with the terrorist organization Hamas; and sanctions on Iran wither.”
You know things have become grim for Republican anti-Hagel ideologues when they are reduced to praising Ted Kennedy as a “nervy firebrand” for his opposition to Robert Bork. As contentious and ugly as the confirmation hearings are likely to be, I am hopeful that they will have a salutary effect on debates over foreign policy and military spending in the longer term by showing just how unhinged and fanatical Hagel’s opponents are. If militarists and hard-liners try to impose a “Hagel litmus test” and fail as miserably as I suspect they will, it will make it that much easier to ignore their objections the next time there is an important decision to be made.
There’s no basis for most of what Rubin says here, but to the extent that there’s any truth in the claims regarding military spending and Iran sanctions these would be reasons to welcome Hagel’s appointment rather than fear it. Military spending is higher in real terms today than it was at the height of Reagan’s build-up at a time when the U.S. faces relatively few threats. None of these threats justifies the current level of spending. Sanctions on Iran are cruel and ineffective on their own terms, and the sooner that they “wither” the better it will be for Iranians and the possibility of reducing tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Hard-liners are understandably distressed that Hagel’s appointment could make new conflicts and increased military spending less likely than they might otherwise be, but far from disqualifying Hagel these objections should give the public additional reasons to applaud the selection.