…Hagel was abominable, but those Republicans were so darn mean to him.
This was the inevitable way they needed to go, right? Hagel turns out to be unprincipled and/or to have dreadful principles, plus no ability to articulate them or defend himself, making error after error, and even liberals and the left can see that and are embarrassed. But hey, those Republicans are just so darn cruel, vindictive, attacking, nit-picky, (choose whatever pejorative adjective you want), and will have been responsible for making his task more difficult when he becomes the Secretary of Defense.
They had no strong argument against Hagel, just a thousand cuts of little misstatements from his past.
Hagel wasn’t as crisp or clever or self-assured as I expected. He may not have realized how tough it is to be on the receiving end of TV-conscious Senators. He may also have thought that prior friendships would still count in this age of hyper-partisanship and after he became an apostate Republican.
I love that phrase “little misstatements” (take a look at some of them, if you’re unfamiliar with Hagel’s testimony). “Little misstatement” is almost as good as “misspoke,” another favorite of mine. The word should refer to slips of the tongue. But instead it’s often used to characterize serious mistakes, including mistakes of judgment. Hagel has had so many of those—both in the past and in the hearings—that it is actually rather frightening that this man will almost certainly be confirmed.
[ADDENDUM: I can’t resist including some of Hagel’s “little misstatements”—which most assuredly were not only “from his past”:
First [Hagel] said it was the policy of the Obama administration to “contain” Iran — meaning it will allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon and then try to box it in.
…not only has Hagel spoken approvingly of engaging with the Iranians, he has his own checkered history when it comes to holding Iran to account. It includes voting against a 2007 resolution that declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps — perhaps the world’s foremost trainer and funder of state-sponsored terrorism — a terrorist organization.
In trying to defend that vote yesterday, he said he had done so (along with newly minted Secretary of State John Kerry) because it was an assault on an “elected, legitimate” government — by which he meant Iran’s theocracy. And because, he said, voting for the resolution would have given the Bush administration a green light to go to war with Iran.
Well, that ludicrous notion is in the past. What’s in the present is that the stated policy of the Obama administration toward the Iranian nuke is “prevention” — that it will not allow Iran to get the bomb, period, and will do what is necessary to ensure it doesn’t happen.
So Hagel corrected himself, kind of: “I was just handed a note that I misspoke — that I said I supported the president’s position on containment. If I said that, I meant to say that we don’t have a position on containment.” Whatever that means.
Later he said he was sorry he’d called the Iranian government elected and legitimate; rather, he should have said it was recognized.
“I don’t understand Iranian politics,” Hagel said — which would be understandable if, say, Khloe Kardashian were testifying. But Hagel is going to be a key official determining US policy toward Iran, and one would hope he’d bring a bit of pre-existing knowledge to the table.
He was also sorry to have said Israel keeps the Palestinians “caged in like wild animals.” Oh, and he didn’t mean to have drawn a moral equivalence between Israel and Hezbollah by referring to “the sickening slaughter on both sides” during a war inaugurated entirely by Hezbollah’s rockets.
As for American policy, he and his ex-friend Sen. John McCain got into quite a tussle over the surge in Iraq, which Hagel described before it began as “the worst foreign-policy disaster since Vietnam.”
This is something about which he was obviously mistaken — even if you think the war itself was a foreign-policy disaster, the surge certainly made it far less of one — and yet he could neither find the words to defend his 2007 view nor the words to say things had worked out differently from how he had expected them to go.
“There are a lot of things I don’t know about,” Hagel said, when it came to America’s defenses. “If confirmed, I intend to know a lot more than I do.”
But why should he bother? After all, he said in perhaps the most head-shaking comment of the day, “It doesn’t matter what I think.”
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) begged to differ: “It matters what you think,” she found herself saying in response.
Or maybe this was the most head-shaking comment: Defense secretary is “not a policymaking position,” and because he has to work in consultation with others and in service to the president, he won’t be “running anything.”
Those are just the high(low)lights.]