Haggling over Hagel

Haggling over Hagel

by digby

I'm sympathetic to Glenn Greenwald's take on the Hagel nomination, particularly the fact that among the possible nominees in both parties, Hagel is probably among the most dovish. But that says more about the degradation of the Democratic Party's foreign policy establishment than it does about Chuck Hagel.

I have to admit that I find all this sort of confusing. The Chuck Hagel I'm most familiar with is a somewhat dull-witted fellow who insisted we send ground troops into Kosovo (over the objections of the likes of Tom DeLay!)and adamantly supported the idiotic Star Wars program --- almost to the extent of being a fanatic on the subject. He was much better on Iraq, of course, although he voted for it. (Recall that more than 30 21 Senate Democrats plus Jeffords and Chaffee voted against, so it wasn't an impossible vote to take.)

Was he worse than many Democrats of the past couple of decades? No. Aggressive militarism combined with convenient dovishness is a bipartisan affair. But he was weird, one of the Senate's "mavericks" which in his case never seemed to me to be political positioning for higher office, like John McCain, or bitter contrarianism like Joe Lieberman, but rather simple incoherence. He just didn't appear to have much of a center.

Now there are many who say this impression is nonsense, that Hagel is extremely bright and has a very well-formed, if idiosyncratic, view of the world. I'll take their word for it. I'm no Hagel expert and frankly haven't followed his career all that closely. I'm basing my impressions on an accumulation of discrete episodes over the course of a couple of decades in which I happened to pay attention to him. As I said, he's certainly not the worst person Obama could have chosen from among the Democrats. And he's much better than 99.9% of Republicans. So, if the WH wants this to be a GOP job, he's a far better choice than most. (I shudder to think who he might have picked.) But he's an odd duck, and not always in a good way.

It doesn't matter though. The Secretary of Defense works for Obama and Obama's policies will rule the day. I don't think it will buy him even the smallest bit of "credibility" however. Obviously the Republicans are having one of their patented hissy fits already, which just goes to show that they aren't about "partisanship" per se, but rather ideology, which should be a lesson to the White House. (The more centrist the WH, the further right the GOP...) And I cannot see how his being a military vet will help him with the Pentagon brass. He was, after all, an enlisted man.

This nomination fight looks as if it will be quite a show, however. According to Politico, opposition to Hagel is really about Bill Kristol's move to take over the GOP. If that's the case, then this is just another wingnut circus. Looks like they ain't done yet.