Here are the highlights from the first couple of hours of the confirmation hearing for Chuck Hagel:
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) began by listing a number of concerning comments and votes by Chuck Hagel on Israel and other topics, thereby giving credibility and stature to his opponents. He asked about Hagel’s opposition to unilateral sanctions but never asked if Hagel thought he was wrong or changed his mind.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) went on a tear, demanding Hagel answer the question as to whether his opposition to the surge was wrong. Hagel squirmed and evaded and refused to answer. McCain said he would take the refusal to answer in considering his vote. It was a powerful moment, giving reason for virtually every Republican senator to oppose the nomination. McCain also got Hagel to concede that he opposed the surge in Afghanistan. Hagel’s ego was noteworthy and will create problems for him if he likewise refuses to say he was wrong on opposition to unilateral sanctions, the Global Zero report, etc.
Most of Hagel’s supporters were conspicuous in their avoidance of his record, preferring, as Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) did, to ask him to reminiscence about Vietnam or to wax lyrical about his devotion to the troops. It was a revealing indication of how weak the case for Hagel is. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) whipped through a list of positions on Iran, Israel and nuclear deterrence, asking him if he agreed with the mainstream views on these issue. She avoided asking him to explain the inconsistencies or when and why he changed his mind. She dare not ask, it seems.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) methodically tore Hagel’s Global Zero apart bit by bit, line by line. Hagel tried to insist the initiative didn’t back unilateral disarmament; Sessions showed otherwise by reading from the report.
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) pressed Hagel on a number of votes, asking if he had taken certain votes. Hagel fudged and finally conceded that he had. Inhofe also read a list of questions Right Turn posed on Egypt and the F-16s, although Hagel was not asked to respond to them. On Twitter, a few mainstream-media people bristled that this was a “column,” not a report. Well, it is great that U.S. senators read The Post, and especially our reported blogs, which Greg Sargent and I produce each day and which break news, get interviews and ask hard questions that many in the mainstream media don’t or won’t. The video is below:
UPDATE (12:10 p.m.): Things took a turn for the worst for Hagel in the last 30 minutes or so. He asserted that the government of Iran is elected and legitimate. He flubbed, saying he supports our containment policy toward Iran. (He later corrected himself.) He insisted we shouldn’t have a public debate about “red lines” on Iran, a weird position for any public official to take. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) is now taking him to the woodshed for his expedient confirmation conversion. Hagel’s supporters are looking exceptionally uncomfortable.