I am hearing around town that Chuck Hagel could get the nod for the SecDef nomination as early as Monday. (I’m also hearing he’s about to get dumped.) Seems almost impossible that Obama will go with him in the face of opposition from outgoing Dem icon Barney Frank, incoming House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Eliot Engel, and Senators too numerous to list… But this is Barack Obama. But perhaps he’s more swayed by the accolades of 9/11 truthers, Iranian state owned Press TV, and that well-known Democrat Pat Buchanan.
Is this a wise choice for the president? For some, as David Greenberg so elegantly wrote in yesterday’s Daily Beast, it is enough that the likes of Bill Kristol and Paul Wolfowitz oppose Hagel. For others, Hagel’s antipathy toward Israel is a sufficient credential for any cabinet posting. And for reflexive new-isolationists and libertarians, it is surely endearing that Hagel opposes all military action, everywhere, anytime. But Barack Obama has other problems to solve. He has a debt limit to negotiate; he has sequestration to fuss over in just under 60 days. He has an economy on the ropes. Is this the fight he wishes to have? Is it worth the paltry political capital now in the president’s hands? Because it will take capital. The GOP is unlikely to go for the apostate from their ranks. Liberal Democrats will rightly ask why someone willing to jettison his first party won’t be just as quick to screw his new one. And then there’s Israel, Iran, and Hagel’s shaky management credentials.
There are many who would serve with distinction at the helm of an Obama Pentagon. As Bill Kristol writes in today’s Standard, there’s “Deputy Secretary Ashton Carter, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, and former Undersecretary for Policy Michèle Flournoy […]Richard Danzig, John Hamre, and Joseph Nye[,] Olympia Snowe, Sam Nunn, Dick Gephardt, and Bill Bradley.” We could probably add a few. Is Hagel truly better than these men and women? Um, no.