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Hagel’s Hearing: Profoundly Depressing

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Alex Wong / Getty Images

Chuck Hagel at his confirmation hearing Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Watching the Senate Armed Services Committee interact Thursday with former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel—President Obama’s candidate to be secretary of defense—was a profoundly depressing experience.

Hagel’s performance in his “confirmation” hearing was remarkable; he spent the day eating his own words under pressure mostly from Republicans—so much so that it is hard to understand what views he might actually hold.

Unlike most effective politicians who are always clever at saying nothing or changing positions, he was so inarticulate at doing so that it is also hard to understand how he ever could have been elected twice to the Senate from Nebraska.

As fumbling and apologetic as Hagel’s answers were to the members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, even my low expectations for the performance of the senators on that committee went unmet.

Several Democrats seem mostly interested in protecting themselves from being seen as too cozy with Hagel because of his previous statements about Israel, its issues and its lobby (eg. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.), and others seemed mostly concerned about pork (eg. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.). Only moderate Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) seemed to be more worried about Hagel’s declining fate on the committee than feathering his own political nest.

However, even the worst of the Democrats strode as giants compared to the Republicans, who were all relentless in their cheap shots to justify their predetermined hostility to Hagel.

Particularly offensive was Senator John McCain‘s (R-Ariz.) insistence that the witness pay homage to McCain’s dogma on the sanctity of the “surge” as rescuing America from ignominy in Iraq (which it did not).

Senator Jim Inhofe’s (R-Okla.) bumbling small-mindedness was a gruesome introduction of himself to the nation as the leading (most senior) Republican on the armed services committee. If this is the best the Republicans can do to explain themselves to the country on national-security issues, their domicile in America’s political wilderness has a long way to go before it is over.

How ironic that Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) should use intimidation to corner the cowering Hagel into professing he could think of no senator that was intimidated by the Israel lobby.

Having seen that sort of intimidation for decades as a Senate staffer (both from senators and lobbyists), it was a sad moment indeed in the annals of the Senate to see a witness not stand up to the tawdry tactics; a historic moment for pride as a citizen it was surely not.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) spent his time, like McCain, demanding that Hagel agree with Cruz’s attacks on him, even attempting to put words in Hagel’s mouth that Hagel finally said he never said.

That exchange was the one time in the entire hearing that Hagel stood up for himself. But it came so late, and was so fleeting, that he clearly did not undo the harm his mealy-mouthing did to his own nomination.

The Hagel nomination to be secretary of defense is surely now in trouble. The Republicans had their way with him so easily that they surely will widen the offensive—and its offensiveness—to make it a major partisan food fight. The White House has already put out a statement defending Hagel with a defensiveness that clearly denotes its concern, and it must now know it has a problem.

Hagel’s blood is in the water—poured there by himself—and now the Republicans are sure to pour in all the bile and poison their fund raising machines can come up with, which is a lot.

Welcome back to the good old Washington of 2012.

100 comments
FredGrandLedgeMI
FredGrandLedgeMI

@madskilzusa

Land should not be taken from Palestinian families for the purpose of building homes for Israeli citizens.The actions of Palestinian leaders or some Arab militants does not justify the taking of land from individual families.It is a profoundly ugly business.American taxpayers should not be supporting or enabling this activity, even indirectly.

By attempting to displace families who lived on the land for decades or generations, which is immoral, Israel experienced problems throughout the twentieth century and up to the present time.Some of those being displaced are, of course, resisting in those ways in which they are able, including ways which are themselves immoral -- in some instances, horrific attacks on innocent civilians -- and, of course, self-defeating.

In any event, and most importantly, it is not a security issue for the Unitied States.No additional American resources should be directed into the conflict at this point.Maybe there was a sound rational for military aid in the past, but it is no longer valid.

Should Americans support/subsidize Israel because it assists the USA?What assistance from Israel for America?The relationship appears to be beneficial for only one party, Israel, with the exception of those benefits that normally come from our maintaining friendly relations with any nation, including nations we don't subsidize.

lxg
lxg

Hagel was more than embarrassing. He stuttered, was unclear, and his performance was so dull witted. My favorite Republican in the Senate while he was there, I think he should undergo neuroimaging before the President (who I support, have donated to and voted for twice), before having him in this important position. As a physician, I am concerned about this man's abilities. Underwhelming is a gross exaggeration of his mental acuity. His answers and his thinking on the spot were imprecise, at best, and so imbecilic since anyone could have predicted the questions. Who the hell prepared this guy, and if they did, why put him up? Puleez. There are lots of smart people out there, choose one! Not this guy, whose time has clearly passed him by. 

KayoKahn
KayoKahn

It is time to settle personal scores or make political statements for some voting blocks. The irony is that all this joggling just proves that Hagel was right about the power of special interest in the Congress.

kevinclennon
kevinclennon

The author dosen't like republicans? I can do without the bias reporting. The facts are a good place to start.

JoeKidd
JoeKidd

This isn't about what Hagel believes or disbelieves or what he has said in the past. He was TOLD what to say by the Obama administration and he still screwed it up. That is what should be profoundly depressing and distressing to all U.S. citizens.

Don_Bacon
Don_Bacon

Was the hearing on the nominated US Defense Secretary about US national security? No. 

At yesterday's hearing on Chuck Hagel Israel was mentioned 166 times and Iran (a problem closely linked to Israel) 144 times. Afghanistan was mentioned only 20 times, and the problem of suicides of U.S. troops only twice.

But yes -- Hagel blew it. In the US government only lap-dogs need apply and Hagel, although he tries, isn't very good at it.


rev_otis_mcnatt
rev_otis_mcnatt

Maybe McCain should fill everyone in on why he has always so fanatically defended an enemy (pretend friend) of the US, called Israel, including their attack on the USS Liberty, their spying, and their knowledge of 9-11.

rev_otis_mcnatt
rev_otis_mcnatt

The power of the Zionist lobby showing itself, while denying it has any power.  Hilarious.  Our "leaders" continue to be owned; no ethics, no concern for America, no concern for endlessly supporting crimes of enormous proportions.

MartinKempton
MartinKempton

So Winslow, I don't follow your thinking here.   Hagel's wounds are self-inflicted.  He ought to have been hammered.  The fact the Democrats are not embracing him just show how bad of a choice he was.  Also, John Kerry floated thru his confirmation hearing.  Why cause while the Republicans might have disagreed with him, he didn't piss anyone off.

meddevguy
meddevguy

OK, I give up, why would the Republicans "pour in all the bile and poison their fund raising machines can come up with"? He is a Republican and even if he were a Martian, what good would fund raising do to a personal decision by a Senator on Advise and Consent? Am I missing some tiny clause of the Constitution that says the Secretary of Defense is an elected office where funds might make a difference?

Granted Mr. Wheeler does have one of the most experienced backgrounds in Military and Congress, but why take his personal disappointment with Secretary-Nominee Hagel's out on a political party? I think he fits perfectly with our President's military and foreign relations agenda. Once he is in office, we'll get the same result we did of President Clinton's attitude toward our military. I just hope the big boom and the ambulances aren't in my town this time.

madskilzusa
madskilzusa

Why should Israel just sit back and allow Palestinian hate and violence (+ refusal to admit that Israel has a right to exist) to deter it from building new homes for its citizens and new immigrants in lands it rightfully owns...Judea, Sumeria and Jerusalem? If the Arabs refuse to stop spewing ant-Israel filth and working towards its destruction...then why should Israel not build where and when it likes?? Middle digit to all those Israel haters.

TonyG
TonyG

Chuck acted like he was on drugs. .. . is this really the best we have . . . NO!  This guy is a REAL Obama drone. . .  not brains . . . follow the leader over the cliff.  Why do we waste our time.

lancemh
lancemh

Winslow Wheeler -

Have you ever been subjected to a cross-examination in a courtroom? 

It's a rhetorical question - of course you haven't.  The reason I know that is because you would be far more empathetic to what Hagel just endured if you had been in his shoes (as my mother always taught me, "you don' t know another man until you have walked in his shoes"). 

I am a trial attorney, and right now I would love to have you on the witness stand, savaging you like I have so many other unwitting witnesses.  And I have savaged many a man like you who thought he was going to get up there and be calm, collected and articulate.

Except, in this case, Chuck Hagel was ambushed!  By a couple of "bush league" Senators with an axe to grind and no real case.

Which brings to mind an old trial lawyer's adage:  "If you don't have a case, just abuse the witness."

orlando__
orlando__

This article should have been called, "Hagel's Hearing: Profoundly Depressing for a Media Biased Person Like Me."

madskilzusa
madskilzusa

Of course all Jews don't share the same opinion about Irael and it's security. But American Jews are now soooo insulated by their relative safety in the US that they are clueless about the realities that Israel faces. Israelis are infinitely more anti-Obama than America's Jewry because they are on the very frontlines of what Obama's absurd Middle East policies would bring. Israelis agree much more with fellow Israeli's about Israel security than with American Jews. I have family about 30 miles from Gaza. They have had rockets land just a kilometer from their home.

They lost their simplistic, naive American notions about the "Paletinian question" when they made "aliyah" and their fine china was blown from the wall of their new Israeli home.



Read more: http://nation.time.com/2013/02/01/hagels-hearing-profoundly-depressing/#ixzz2Jf1rAZ7T

AdamSmith
AdamSmith

I had exactly the same reaction.

For someone who claimed the Senate yielded to Jewish/.Israeli pressure, he didn't seem able to stand up to pressure from anyone.

Not the image you'd like your Secretary of Defense to project to the world.

ClausGehner
ClausGehner

I had a lot of sympathy for Sen. Hagel because of his honest, if somewhat awkward critique of the unquestioning support of anything to do with Israel - we need to be more forceful in stopping the settlement policy if there is to be any hope of peace via a Two-State solution. I was also impressed with his courage in opposing the "surge", which did nothing to improve the long-term prospects for Iraq and only served to kill and maim more people.

However, his fumbling performance during the hearings so far have convinced me that he is NOT an appropriate Secretary of Defence.

Casual_Observer
Casual_Observer

Yesterday's display by John McCain was truly comical.  His insistence that the troop surge was the reason for reduced violence is disingenuous.  He knows as well as anyone that the "Sunni Awakening", aka. a Pentagon payoff to insurgents was the reason for a reduction in violence.  Pallets upon pallets of U.S. currency were flown in as bribe money in an attempt to pay off the enemy to end the violence.  It worked, but the media narrative has been that the troop surge made the difference.  It didn't.

patriot12
patriot12

Instead of bashing the Republicans for questioning Hagel in a manner that was not pleasing to you, how about an honest appraisal of the suitability of the candidate for this extremely important position in government? What should be questioned is the judgment and rationale for making such an unwise and completely unacceptable choice in selecting Hagel. If this candidate is the best available in the president's opinion, the president's intelligence and competence are what should be questioned. The bias that you talk about is not bias per se but an informed position based on numerous comments and positions taken over the years by the candidate. The questions and explanations sought by the panel were absolutely valid. The only bias I detect is your own, sir. 

originalnature
originalnature

For all their paper tiger talk the republican yappers did not fail in letting their Alligator Mouth over load their Canary azz.  Trick questions and meaningless in your face insinuations are the preview of cowards and deserved to be ignored, as Hagel did with restrained respect for the office holders McCain and Graham, two of the masters of cheap talk, dumb jokes and disrespect.  Hagel who is in the mold of Eisenhower, Churchill and Colin Powell is well qualified for the job.  These are men of peace, who know the realities of war.  Hagel will bring sunlight to the Cheney - Bush - Rumsfeld robbery of the Treasury using the heat and cant of war with Iraq.  This is the biggest fear of Hagel and why the  rabid attack to try and demean his character by attempting to put him a bad light.  They are afraid to death of Chuck Hagel, and rightly so.

truthiness
truthiness

I have never understood the appeal of John McCain whose only notoriety is a failed mission in a failed war.Guess that’s today’s Republicans definition of success.

newsy97
newsy97

@Don_Bacon I am glad you are comfortable with a nuclear Iran. But FYI, people without an anti-Israeli bias might ask the same 166 questions.

UMMLocal12
UMMLocal12

No, it's because the Republicans want a shot at his Senate seat.

FredGrandLedgeMI
FredGrandLedgeMI

@madskilzusa

Individual Palestinian families are losing their homes to Israeli settlers.It is a profoundly disgusting business.This will lead to resentments that will not be forgotten.

It may take the remainder of the present century to work itself out, but I fear it will not end well for all involved.Let's be certain that the USA is not culpable in this aggression.

HuddaAmalech
HuddaAmalech

@madskilzusa I know it's difficult to accept the fact that international law doesn't recognize divine deeds and the validity of bible stories, but the answer to your question might be easier to understand if you could just detach yourself from purely tribal considerations long enough to put yourself in my shoes. What if I asked you your question: "Why should Palestine just sit back and allow Israeli hate and violence (+ refusal to admit that Palestine has a right to exist) to deter it from building new homes for its citizens and" returning refugees "in lands it rightfully owns"...the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem? "And if the Israelis refuse to stop spewing anti-Palestinian filth and sabotaging our right to a state..." then why should Palestinians not boycott Israel's goods? And why not haul Israel before the ICC for war crimes? And why not use terrorism to accomplish our ends just as Menachem Begin and other Jewish terrorists did to bring Israel into existence? You see, Mad Skilzusa? Your question  cuts both ways.

Moreover, your middle digit and your trigger finger sum up the contemptuous attitude of your country’s leaders toward the rest of the world:   “Ignore them and their laws unless they refuse to cooperate. Then kill 'em." 



rev_otis_mcnatt
rev_otis_mcnatt

@madskilzusa  

Israel keeps stealing land, bulldozing homes, killing Arabs with impunity, putting up blockades and you give this stock whine?  Hint: it is ISRAEL that is working toward its own destruction.  How can it be avoided?  It can't be.

PhilPerspective
PhilPerspective

@TonyG He's an Obama drone?  A guy who until his appointment was a right-wing Republican?

RachelBrownlee
RachelBrownlee

@lancemh  

Hagel was doomed either way. If he WASN'T sufficiently 'pro-Israel' he would be branded an 'anti-semite' but, if he DID promise to put Israel's interests first then he would have brought nothing different to the table anyway.

PhilPerspective
PhilPerspective

@lancemh I think Wheeler's point is that Hagel should have been better prepared to baffle them with BS.  It wasn't any great secret what Cranky McSame and his BFF Mini-me were going to ask/hector about.

widtap
widtap

@madskilzusa Israel, like many countries throughout the world, should probably think about how they could pay their own way without the billions in US Taxpayer money for their defense prior to trying to dictate how the US Government should rearrange it priorities to suit the regional conflicts of Israel and its neighbors.

jendowman
jendowman

@AdamSmith I think he did well. He didn't lash out and call McCain a child-murdering sociopath, now did he?

joyer29
joyer29

Agreed. He had the chance to be strong, and he dropped it. Maybe he is "over the hill"?

joyer29
joyer29

Hagel could have said that. Why did it take you to explain it?

TrsSmith
TrsSmith

@patriot12 "Instead of bashing the Republicans for questioning Hagel in a manner that was not pleasing to you". It should be unpleasing to any and everyone it was an embarrassment.Particularly  John McCain, the man hasn't been right in his entire career. He graduated at the bottom of his class and it has been down hill ever since.

"What should be questioned is the judgment and rationale for making such an unwise and completely unacceptable choice in selecting Hagel." According to YOU.

I find it unamazing that the republicans are up in arms. A democrat is in charge and the party of no is consistantly saying no to the president. They don't need a valid reason.

Imagine when hiring someone you had to get permission from your competitors. If they don't like you candidate you don't get to hire them. How long would you be in business. Obama won, he should get the team he wants, republicans be damned.

joyer29
joyer29

Hagel has never displayed a high intellect.

joyer29
joyer29

Really not about McCain's appeal or lack thereof. He is a Senator and has the right to ask questions of an appointee. Nothing more.

HuddaAmalech
HuddaAmalech

@newsy97 @Don_Bacon Then again, Americans without a pro-Israel bias just might have wanted to hear more about China, Syria and North Africa, and less about Hagel's refusal -- until now -- to let AIPAC  decide what's best for our country.  And FYI, I am indeed more comfortable with a nuclear Iran than I am with another needless war for Israel. Containment worked for us for 40 years, and had our legislators more integrity than ambition, containment would be on the table now, and they would be talking about our country's best interests instead of how to comply with Netanyahu's demands.  But that's because I'm a loyal American, Mr. Bacon. So of course we disagree. 

rev_otis_mcnatt
rev_otis_mcnatt

@newsy97 @Don_Bacon I'm quite happy with a nuclear Iran.  It is all those that Israel has that bother me.  More than one Israeli PM has stated they would try and "take the world with them" if their existence is ever threatened.

lancemh
lancemh

@PhilPerspective @lancemh 

Phil -

I don't think Hagel was prepared for one of his best friends to savage him like that.  Are you aware of the past deep political and personal connections between?  Chuck Hagel was McCain' right-hand man in his quest for the Presidency in 2000 (a quest that I vervantly supported - much to my regret).

Hagel was stunned by the vitrolic behavior of McCain towards him.  As was I.  It was an ncomprehensible, unconscionable and unforgiveable betrayal.  It speaks to McCains now total absence of character.  Lesser men like you, me and Winslow Wheeler would have wilted even more under those circumstances.

That was my point.

AdamSmith
AdamSmith

@jendowman @AdamSmith 

He looked like a wimp who can be pushed around.

Secretary of Defense isn't for the meek, and Hagel looked meek.

lancemh
lancemh

@joyer29

Maybe because no one inside government would admit that we paid tens of millions of dollars to the Shiite and Sunni leadership to get along - in exchange for us leaving the rotten place.  We come in to quell the Al Qaeda insurgency - which neither the Shiite or Sunni's could do - pay the other two parties off,  and get the Hell out of that God-forsaken country. 

After all, it wasn't like that money was delivered by a few low-ranking enlisted men who could later be  impeached by insinuating that they were just retaliating against their commanders and that their assertions were laughable.  To the contrary. It was CIA and top Administration officials who would have made the payoffs - under sworn secrecy.

So Hagel was in the unenviable position of proving something that is merely an assertion with no real proof.  And why engage McCain in such an argument - McCain uses anger instead of logic and reason to make his points. 

Think it through, Joyer . . . or not!

newsy97
newsy97

@originalnature @patriot12 This man is not supposed to be a street fighter, he has been named to be the head of the most powerful military in the world.

As a street fighter, as a patriot and an American I like Hagel, as SD, Pasedena.


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