Bill Kristol writes: “Has there ever been a more embarrassing confirmation hearing than Hagel’s for a major cabinet position? For a minor cabinet position? For a sub-cabinet position? We don’t know of one. Yet so far liberals seem to be trying to pretend that all is well. Or they have simply averted their gaze from the ghastly train wreck. Or, they tell us (and themselves) — well, the secretary of defense doesn’t really make policy . . . Or, they grumble — well, we can’t give Hagel’s critics the satisfaction of acknowledging that this appointment is a disaster.”
He is spot on, but we should not be surprised at Democrats’ behavior. Supposedly pro-Israel Democratic senators have gone through four years of the Obama administration pretending that all is well in foreign policy and averting their gaze from the ghastly train wreck that is his Middle East policy. Once you are in for a penny you’re in for a pound on intellectual dishonesty. The irony is not — as Chuck Hagel once declared with no basis in fact — that senators have fallen prey to some fifth column pro-Israel cabal but that they have folded like cheap cardboard suitcases when the president has condemned, ambushed and undercut our democratic ally.
Bill Kristol asks whether there aren’t “a few courageous Democrats in the United States Senate who will announce that they will not consent to a secretary of defense unqualified for that high office?” We’ll, their compliance with President Obama’s hostile stance toward Israel, their insistence on running interference on a full investigation of Benghazi (which ultimately revealed multiple serious policy lapses) and their disinclination to challenge him on a defense sequester they know to be devastating should tell us all we need to know about Democrats’ courage.
Instead, the left wing punditocracy whines that Republicans on the committee were too tough on poor, old Chuck. They bemoan the loss of Senate decorum — an odd complaint for those who lionized the late Sen. Ted Kennedy’s despicable attack on Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. In trying to shift the blame for the hearing fiasco they implicitly admit Hagel’s ineptness. Yet how do they imagine he would be tough enough to talk to the Russians, the Chinese and others who have no intention of treating him with kid gloves? Knowing how entirely unfit he is for the post they nevertheless are willing to put our military in his hands.
It is precisely for this reason that the burden falls on Republicans to rescue the country, and I use that term deliberately. If Hagel had been nominated by President George W. Bush, not a single Democrat would vote for him and he would be scorned by the mainstream media as a dim, inappropriate candidate; they know as do Republicans that he is unfit for a serious job and the absence of a capable and competent defense secretary places the nation’s national security in jeopardy. No president who cared about the Pentagon or wanted the best and the brightest would have picked him. However, Obama did — so draw your own conclusions. And unless one party stands up to him and the Democrats, Hagel will be confirmed on a near straight party-line vote.
Sure the GOP will be called obstructionist if it filibusters. Sure the White House will holler. The press will write mean things. But to quote that great public servant: What difference does it make? We are talking about putting a manifestly unfit person in high office at a perilous time. The Republicans have taken an oath not to make the cagiest political move but to defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. No reasonable person can square that obligation with putting that man in that job at this time. Not often is a question as much a matter of pure principle and public character as this nomination.
Who cares if Hagel’s is not a lifetime appointment? Are we not facing an Iranian nuclear threat, al-Qaeda’s spread in North Africa and decimation of our military now? Years from now will Republicans be proud to say: ” Voted no but let him in”?
So the key question is whether there are more than a few, 41 to be precise, Republicans “in the United States Senate who will announce that they will not consent to a secretary of defense unqualified for that high office.” Are there such men and women who will interpose themselves between a confused, overwhelmed nominee and the defense secretary’s office? Very possibly. Will the country be in their debt if they do? Absolutely.