Obama's choice for SecDef is the Cornhusker from Prada
President Obama's pick to head the Defense Department has been widely criticized for many reasons: his appeasement approach towards Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah; his plans to slash Defense Department spending; his foreign policy views (blaming Israel for much of what is wrong in the Middle East), changing his views to advance his political career with a finger raised not just towards Israel but also to determine the way the wind is blowing, and on and on.
Despite the checkered record he may yet win confirmation as the Senate is historically deferential towards a President's nomination. Furthermore, there are 55 Democratic Senators in the new Congress and Obama will be pressuring every one of them to do his bidding.
One roadblock might be Hagel's skills as a leader. He will, after all,: be overseeing a massive department with key responsibilities to defend our nation. He will need to work well with others. Recent reports indicating he lacked that skill with fellow Senate colleagues (as shown by opposition to his nomination from his fellow Republicans). He has been described as abrasive and not a team player with fellow Senators when he served.
But his problems dealing with people also extends to those who have worked for him.
The Washington Times reports that he is a miserable person to work around
It's not the company Chuck Hagel wants to find himself among as senators consider his nomination to be defense secretary. Yet during the Republican's tenure as a senator from Nebraska through 2009, his office's turnover rate ranked second-highest of any in the past decade.
In 2005, 20 of 51 staffers left Mr. Hagel's office, the vast majority of whom left Capitol Hill altogether and were replaced quickly by people with no legislative staff experience. Only George Allen, the former Virginia senator and governor, had a higher turnover rate in the Senate.
"He was 'The Cornhusker wears Prada' to his staff, some of whom describe their former boss as perhaps the most paranoid and abusive in the Senate, one who would rifle through staffers' desks and berate them for imagined disloyalty," former Pentagon adviser Michael Rubin told political analyst Taylor Marsh about Mr. Hagel.
One quality Americans should expect from a Secretary of Defense is equanimity (see the tragic history of James Forrestal for an example of what happens when a poor choice is made for Secretary of Defense) and stability and the ability to attract top-notch people to the team that will run the Defense Department-especially when America faces manifold challenges around the world.
Apparently, being much of a bully himself, Obama does not see similar "qualities" as disqualifying. Nor does he seem concerned about the potential for the Defense Department to be mismanaged. (David Rothkopf recently wrote that Barack Obama himself is a miserable manager-see Managing the Oval Office.)
So why did Obama pick a man like Chuck Hagel for one of the most important positions in America?