The Hagel Finagle
Despite the most inane confirmation hearing performance in recent memory, after embarrassingly stumbling and bumbling through eight hours of straight up questioning, it's a done deal, Chuck Hagel was confirmed and became the United States 23rd Secretary of Defense on Tuesday.
His confirmation became assured lastThursday, after five term Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama and others threw their support behind his nomination. In and of itself, it's not so shocking that Republican Senators jumped ship to support the nomination; Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Mike Johanns of Nebraska also switched sides. But Shelby's justification for doing so certainly was: "He's probably as good as we're going to get. That's quite a statement.
What's Hagel's Experience? He was wounded in Vietnam. Qualifications? Voicing the thoughts of millions of Americans, Lt. Col. Bob Maginnis (USA-Ret.), now senior fellow for national security at the Family Research Council had this to say: The President's pick is ill equipped:
"You have a budget of $660 billion a year. It's a place that should be run by people who have spent their entire life learning these processes, and unfortunately, Mr. Hagel hasn't spent much more than two years in the Army; 45 years ago. That does not qualify him to run the most complex armed forces in the world today."
Unfortunately, if the last two presidential elections are proof of anything, during this period of American politics qualifications have little or no bearing.
For as much good as it did, subsequent to Shelby's announcement, 15 Republican Senators sent Obama a letter urging the President withdraw Hagel's nomination. Appealing to a divisive President still flush with victory, they wrote:
"Over the last half-century, no Secretary of Defense has been confirmed and taken office with more than three senators voting against him. The occupant of this critical office should be someone whose candidacy is neither controversial or divisive."
Undaunted, the Democrats pushed through a vote on Tuesday and Hagel was confirmed by a margin of 58-41. It defies logic. Other than a far left ideology and political bullying, the hallmark of this administration, all roads lead back to the same question. In a country replete with qualified, experienced candidates in national security, why him, why now? For those glued to his confirmation hearings at the end of January, it seems incomprehensible that sensible people elected to safeguard the interests of the American people would even consider this man for such a key position; none the less have the votes for his confirmation.
Throughout questioning, Hagel had a "dog ate my homework" look on his face. It went far deeper than just appearances. As a former Senator, he's not an unknown and had a record of statements and actions to defend, which by all accounts he did poorly. Time and again he was on his heels, contradicting himself and underscoring pre-existing doubts about his qualifications.
In one defining moment he stated without equivocation: "I support the president's strong position on containment." But minutes later, after being handed a note, he awkwardly back tracked: "If I said that, I meant to say that obviously, his position on containment, we don't have a position on containment." Except for his far left Democratic buddies at the hearing, few seemed assuaged with his reversal.
Even more striking, despite earlier reservations about Hagel's anti-Israel bias, it seemed to have been water off the back of a duck for the 12 Jewish Democratic Senators; Ben Cardin, Diana Feinstein, Carl Levin, Brian Schatz, Bernie Sanders, Ron Wyden, Barbara Boxer, Frank Lautenberg, Chuck Shumer, Richard Blumenthal, Michael Bennet, and Al Franken, all of whom fell in line and supported his confirmation.
Unlike so many lemmings, proving some sanity still does exist in an-otherwise polarized American polity, the B'nai B'rith International, the longstanding liberal Jewish advocacy organization ordinarily supportive of the Obama Administration released the following statement:
"During the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Hagel did not assuage our reservations on how he would approach such topics as terrorism, Iran and Israel. We urge all Senators, as they prepare to vote, to carefully review Hagel's record and hearing responses to determine his qualifications for the post. We are concerned that Hagel, unlike the vast majority of his Senate colleagues, underestimates the threat of the Iran-backed terrorist group Hezb'allah."
Unlike the aforementioned Senators, the B'nai B'rith expressed deep concern that Hagel was in the minority when 88 of his Senate colleagues urged the European Union designate Hezb'allah a terrorist organization despite the fact; they were complicit in the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks killing 241 Marines; the Hijacking of TWA Flight 847 in 1985, the Lebanon hostage crisis between 1982-1992, and the most recent terrorist act, the July 2012 attack on Israeli tourists in Burgas Bulgaria.
They conclude with the following admonition:
"We are troubled that Hagel, during his confirmation hearings, undermined the importance of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. He appeared to endorse a policy of containment of a nuclear Iran before being advised that containment was not administration policy."
In recent days, Hagel has disavowed, or said he didn't remember, making certain past comments about Israel. At a 2007 speech he is said to have referred to the U.S. State Department as "an adjunct of the Israeli foreign minister's office." Chalk one up for selective memory. They continued:
"Our hesitation on his nomination is based on our uneasiness with such updates to his record. B'nai B'rith International expresses the expectation that members of the Senate will give his record a thorough review prior to the vote."
In most cases, present a given topic to ten Jews and you'll receive fifteen diverse opinions. Not so with Hagel. With the exception of lock step shills for Obama such as those just mentioned, few things if any have garnered unanimity amongst mainstream Jewish organizations as opposition to this nomination.
Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti Defamation League (ADL) and an ardent supporter of the president, had this to say about Hagel declaring himself an American Senator, not an Israeli Senator:
"That's pretty disturbing language which borders on being conspiratorial. "At the very least it's of concern to the American Jewish community, at the very most, it's very troubling,"
David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) another mainstream Jewish organization sympathetic to the Democratic Party stated: "I am very puzzled by the possibility of Senator Hagel's nomination."
But in the end, none of this seemed to matter. President Obama, unfettered and relentlessly moving to the left can continue playing 3 card monte with the American people. As the roll call on the Hagel confirmation attests, he's got enough dupes in the Senate to continue doing so.