SecDef nominee Chuck Hagel unravels....
Thursday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing was a very bad-hair day for the nominee.
Begin, however, with Hagel's best defense (scroll down to second video clip, 0:58), noting that during his two Senate terms he had cast over 3,000 votes, hundreds of committee votes, given hundreds of speeches, interviews & written a book. No one quote, Hagel said, defines him. Fair enough....
Now view this grilling (6:37) from freshman Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Hagel apparently did not supply the committee with much requested documentation--only 4 of some 100 speeches in the past five years. Cruz showed video of Hagel accepting that Israel in 2006 was guilty of war crimes in fighting Hezbollah. Cruz concluded with a clip showing Hagel accepting an al-Jazeera accusation that the US is the world's bully. Hagel denied the obvious evidence of the videos--which, according to Cruz, were presented with quotes in context.
And there is more....
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) pressed Hagel (scroll down to first video, 0:54) on his statement that the Iraq surge was the worst US foreign policy blunder since Vietnam. Hagel simply refused to acknowledge having made the statement.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) pointedly asked Hagel (1:39), re his statements that the "Jewish lobby" intimidated members of Congress, if Hagel could cite a single instance of same, or a single such issue. Hagel could not respond with an example. In addition, Graham assailed Hagel for refusing to sign a Senate letter to the European Union designating Hezbollah a terrorist group, after the 2006 war Hebollah started by kidnapping Israeli soldiers; 88 senators signed the letter.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) questioned Hagel sharply (10:03). Re Iran, she noted that Hagel had said that a military strike against Iran "is not a viable, feasible or responsible option." Hagel tried to walk his comment back, stating that he had said that a strike against Iran is not a "preferable" option. Ayotte noted the difference between the two statements.
Jennifer Rubin at Right Turn noted that the Global Zero report (26 p.) which Hagel supported called for mutual US-Russia warhead cuts; as a fallback the report suggested "a strong case" could be made for "unilateral, deep" US cuts.
Answering Sen. Saxby Chambliss (video 6, 1:21), Hagel called the Iranian regime "an elected, legitimate government." Hagel walked it back (video 7, 1:10), rephrasing that Iran's government "is recognizable." Hagel refused to call (1:13) the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist group, because it is part of a government recognized by the UN (by which definition North Korea is not a terrorist state). Hagel also said that as SecDef he would not be in a policy-making position--an odd position for a modern SecDef.
Here is what Hagel said (0:50) to Sen. Angus King (I-ME, caucuses with Democrats), as to what he knows about defense issues, as reported in the Weekly Standard Blog:
Chuck Hagel, Barack Obama's nominee to head the defense department, said in his confirmation hearing Thursday that he doesn't "know much" about military programs and technology. "I've said I don't know enough about it," Hagel said, in a response to Maine senator Angus King. "There are a lot of things I don't know about. I, if confirmed, intend to know a lot more than I do. I will have to."
Even CNN repoprted (1:49) that Hagel performed poorly.
Thus the President nominated for the vital post of SecDef a candidate who: (a) knows little about the department, the military hardware, or how to run a huge, fractious bureaucracy; (b) has a long track record of off-key statements, odd associations & spectacularly flawed judgments that required of him myriad Damascus conversions; (c) is a quite inarticulate advocate for the president's point of view. Why would "O" do this?
It is not as if there are no qualified candidates. Pentagon veterans Ashton Carter & Michelle Flournoy have held senior positions, are deeply knowledgeable, articulate and carry no damaging verbal, written, associational or voting baggage. From the Senate, Carl Levin (D-MI) is highly qualified. One can only conclude that The One wants a "yes man" at DoD, and plans to run everything from the White House, where politics trumps geostrategy most of the time. Better qualified candidates would insist on a stronger role--regular access to the president, a major voice in administration defense policy. Put simply, Hagel lacks such a voice. He figures simply to go along with what he is told.
Bottom Line. The odds are that Hagel skates past the post by a slim margin. The unanswered question: Why would those who support Obama vote to confirm a manifestly inept, dodgy nominee? Misplaced loyalty, habit, hope springing eternal....
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, Foreign Policy, National Security, WMD, Nuclear Proliferation, Terrorism, Conservative Politics