If you’ve been following the nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defense, chances are you’ve been tempted to whack your head briskly against a cinder block wall. Or maybe that’s just me:
So that’s that, right? President Obama wanted a guy who sees the world the way he does who is also a Republican, so he can say the other Republicans are horrible, horrible people who hate him so much they’d even block one of their own. Well, not so fast. That explanation would make sense if Hagel was passable as a Senator, if he hadn’t mangled his hearing so badly, and if Barack Obama was a bungling political neophyte surrounded by bungling political neophytes. But Hagel is, he did, Barack Obama isn’t, and he doesn’t. The President is a clever political operative, a product of a machine that is to politicians what Purdue or Stanford are to NFL quarterbacks. He’s surrounded by advisers who also know how to bend just enough to win a political fight even though they are also progressive ideologues. He’s closely allied with Harry Reid, who runs the Senate and could get any half-assed nominee though the Senate gauntlet as surely as he’s delayed any budget vote for well over three years. John Kerry, a former Democratic Presidential nominee, who actually accused every American soldier in Vietnam of war crimes and never recanted his accusation, was confirmed as Secretary of State in just days.
The Hagel nomination makes absolutely no sense to me at all. It is a bone-headed decision for a number of reasons, not the least of which is it gives Republicans an almost fool-proof way to label his foreign policy clueless and dangerous and the Democrats as a bunch of lemmings who’ll choose partisanship over competence. It’s not the decision I’d expect from a President who just thrashed Mitt Romney in November and whose party actually managed to claw back some of the losses they suffered in 2010. It’s not a decision I’d expect from a politician of Barack Obama’s heritage and history.
I admit, I don’t have an answer. I’m stumped. We need to get some answer, though, because if these silly games play out, we’re going to get the worst Secretary of Defense in modern history at exactly the wrong time. There are plenty of threats to our nation — Iran, North Korea, and a resurgent al-Qaeda to name but a few — and a bumbling SecDef now could cost us far more than we want to pay. Someone in Washington needs to be an adult and take up their adult responsibilities. Today.