Battleland

Stat! Bloodied Defense Secretary Incoming!

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Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Chuck Hagel at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee Jan. 31.

The U.S. Senate confirmed former senator Chuck Hagel as defense secretary Tuesday after a long, drawn-out confirmation battle.

Early Tuesday afternoon, he cleared the most critical hurdle when the Senate voted 71-27  to cut off debate on his nomination to serve as the nation’s 24th defense secretary. The vote easily cleared the 60 votes needed.

He won actual confirmation several hours later when the Senate voted to confirm him, 58-41.

Hagel comes to the Pentagon wounded as surely as he was in Vietnam in 1968. He volunteered to go to southeast Asia as an enlisted man, where he earned two Purple Hearts.

Similarly, many of his current wounds are self-inflicted. His confirmation-hearing performance was abysmal, both in content – the prospective defense secretary was confused over U.S. policy regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions? – and in style. He appeared lethargic; some Vietnam veterans wondered if he were suffering from latent PTSD.

“He will take office with the weakest support of any defense secretary in modern history, which will make him less effective on his job,” said Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the GOP’s second-ranking member and minority whip. Republican opposition to Hagel’s nomination delayed Tuesday’s confirmation vote by nearly two weeks; several changed their votes to allow the nomination to proceed.

President Obama is entitled to the defense secretary he wants, absent clearly disqualifying evidence. That doesn’t exist in Hagel’s case, and his roster of bipartisan supporters – ranging from former Army general Colin Powell to former Air Force general Brent Scowcroft — makes that point clear.

“He is an extraordinary individual who has proven with his life his commitment to this nation,” said Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, who as majority whip is the Senate’s second-ranking Democrat. “I believe that Chuck Hagel is up to this test.”

But there is a decidedly forlorn aspect to the Hagel saga.

In the U.S. legislature, politics used to end at the water’s edge. Perhaps President Obama erred in nominating somewhat like Hagel. Perhaps Senate Republicans erred in relentlessly beating him about the head with statements he has made.

But the issue of blame here is irrelevant.

The only thing that counts is that the nation will soon have a defense secretary who is opposed by much of the nation’s treaty-making legislative body. Whips aren’t the only vote-counters; the nation’s allies and foes are paying attention, too, and Hagel’s close confirmation margin will factor into their words and actions on military matters, at least early in his tenure.

But there is one silver lining here. The Senate approved John Kerry to serve as secretary of state 94-to-3 last month. Some suggest that means he’s unlikely to rock the swift boat. Hagel’s much narrower confirmation suggests he is less accommodating, and willing to shake things up at the Defense Department.

So as a bloodied Hagel is wheeled into the Pentagon infirmary – metaphorically speaking, of course – military docs will be busy patching him up.

Then it’ll be up to Hagel to prove his critics wrong.

Given the bitterness of his confirmation fight, looming budget cuts, and the nation’s war weariness, he could end up being just what the doctor ordered.

27 comments
FrankBlank
FrankBlank

Why not "confirmed after stupid and destructive battle?"  Or does describing the event accurately in a headline equate with bias?

wisermann
wisermann

Secretary Hagel knows that US support of Israel's war crimes is what got our buildings destroyed on 9/11. Perhaps he will encourage others in government to cease being controlled by Israel's lobby, AIPAC as it is obvious that Israel is not good for America.

Google: Representative Press What Motivated 9/11 Hyjackers for 9/11 Commission Hearing testimony most of us are unaware of.
Also Google: "God Knows It Did Not Cross Our Minds To Attack The Towers" for a 2004 article that appeared in The Guardian.

wisermann
wisermann

Watching Senator Hagel's Senate confirmation hearing was like watching a mock Galileo Galilei inquisition, a recantment of facts based on evidence to satisfy the ignorant clergy and maintain the imperial power structure. That a US Senator is subjected to this kind of coercion and brutal interrogation by those in our Senate who are agents of a foreign power (Israel) should wake every American up to the reality that the US is totally controlled from the inside by Israel. Leading the charge, besides the Israel-American agents masking as US Senators are the neocon-Zionists who pushed the US into destructive and costly wars in Iraq, Libya, Syria (where Mossad/CIA have spent billions of US tax dollars arming al Qaeda mercs from all over Africa and the Middle East to topple Assad for Israel. The head neocon Israel-firster traitor is Senator John McCain who continues covering up Israel's attack on the USS Liberty which murdered and wounded 205 US sailors and marines.

Google: McCain Confronted on USS Liberty Cover up Youtube.
Thus is the control of our government by Israel, as it DEMANDS protection and money to relentlessly colonize the land it steals as it moves millions of others out of its way to grow "Greater Israel".
Hagel knows this.  Congrats for squeaking by the traitors, Secretary Hagel.

Semper Fi, Secretary Hagel

Sue_N
Sue_N

It will be interesting to see just how much of this country's defense the Repugs are willing to screw with just to continue their vendetta against Obama and Hagel. How far does their hatred reach?

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

Learned a lot about former SG C. Everett Koop who passed recently - he was a conservative Presbyterian who held rigid views on abortion and homosexuality.  He drew critics from the left and right yet rose above them to do the job of heightening awareness of serious health issues, particularly tobacco smoking.   Hagel could do well to use Koop's example.

MrObvious
MrObvious

So all that hand wrangling was for nothing? I mean all that 'new' information they needed to confirm him hasn't changed. I guess regular folks got pretty damn pissed when GOP decided to continue in their usual fashion of nothing doing their basic job.

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

" he’s unlikely to rock the swift boat"

Clever, CT, clever.

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

That Supreme Court justice who got in by the skin of his teeth 20 years ago didn't have much support either.  Compared to that, Hagel has a boisterous minority.

MartiWilliams
MartiWilliams

The Republicans have only themselves to blame for the continued furor in Washington.

gysgt213
gysgt213

"Missed me by that much."


Maxwell Smart (Get Smart for you youngins)

notsacredh
notsacredh

Republicans fight, bitch and moan about anything the administration says or does. Another thing gets added to the list.

grape_crush
grape_crush

What a pointless, dumb post, Mark. "Things might be bad for Hagel, but they also could be good!"

> Similarly, many of his current wounds are self-inflicted.

'Similarly?' WTH is that supposed to mean? Hagel shot himself on the sly to get a Purple Heart?

> The only thing that counts is that the nation will soon have a defense secretary who is opposed by much of the nation’s treaty-making legislative body.

Well, it's a good thing that the Secretary of Defense isn't the one who writes up treaties to be ratified by the Senate, isn't it? This is one of those statements that sounds significant but doesn't really mean much.

You could state that it's Congress who has budgetary oversight, but I don't see GOP Senators wanting to mess too much with the military and defense project funding going to their states. Add that SecDefs generally fly under radar unless something serious goes down plus the fact that all this 'bloodying' is a grotesque political circus put on by GOPer pols with a jealous axe to grind...in six months, whatever Hagel is doing will barely rate having a post here on Swampland.

> Stat...Hagel comes to the Pentagon wounded.. So as a bloodied Hagel is wheeled into the Pentagon infirmary...military docs will be busy patching him up...end up being just what the doctor ordered.

I hate it when authors use cliche'. They're not being very creative.

> ...metaphorically speaking, of course...

Really? Couldn't tell. We must be stupid not to have noticed.

Could you be even more condescending to your audience, Mark?

Ohiolib
Ohiolib

How exactly is he bloodied? Being pi$$on by a deranged tribe of mental munchkins doesn't involve blood. Unless STDS are also involved.



ThirstyBarbarian
ThirstyBarbarian

He volunteered to go to southeast Asia as an enlisted man, where he earned two Purple Hearts.

Similarly, many of his current wounds are self-inflicted.

-------------

That is a really bad way to put this. It implies Hagel's Purple Hearts are from self-inflicted wounds in Vietnam. The author should fix that. 

Sue_N
Sue_N

Sen. Pittypat Graham (R-BENGHAZI!!!11!) was last seen collapsing into his fainting couch, clutching his pearls and wailing for his smelling salts.

bobell
bobell

Let's be a bit more careful how we put things.  Hagel's Vietnam wounds were not "self-inflicted." He got them from the NVA or Vietcong. I doubt that many members of the military want to be wounded when they join the service or volunteer for combat, let alone actually wound themselves (as the Swift Boaters falsely accused Kerry of doing).  His metaphorical wounds in his testimony are much closer to totally self-inflicted. But he earned his Purple Heart.

What's important is, as Mark says, that Hagel now gets a chance to prove his critics wrong. Naturally we all try to predict future conduct by looking at what preceded it.  In Hagel's case, his history is a mixed bag. But if he can nurse the military through the coming budget cuts and preserve its fighting capability, and assming he avoids any future gaffes, he'll be fine.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@Sue_N

If John McCain's ruining of his friendship with Hagel is any indication, their irrational hatred and pettiness is endless.  Hagel, the man John McCain wanted as his Sec Def in 2008.

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

Come to think, Thomas still doesn't have much support.

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

Baddest.  Theme.  Song.  Evuh.

retiredvet
retiredvet

@grape_crush Hagel is a good man and he will do a good job. This hatred by the far right is very likely to backfire even more.

retiredvet
retiredvet

@Ohiolib I'd say that the deranged tribe has more urine on them via the back draft.

bobell
bobell

@Sue_N Oh, he'll be fine, just fine.  Until his next election year comes up and someone primaries him for the one or two reasonable things he's said during his Senate days.

TyPollard
TyPollard

@bobell 

I'm beginning to think "friendly fire" is the #1 treat to the security of our nation.

notsacredh
notsacredh

I'm not giving up my proofreader. He's not very good, but he's cheap.