Tags: Chuck Hagel

Russian Foreign Minister: Cold War ‘Geopolitics Never Disappeared’


Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov responded to American suggestions that President Vladimir Putin is pursuing a Cold War–style “rivalry” by saying that he believes such conflicts “never disappeared” from the foreign-policy landscape.

“When we support the free will of the people of Crimea in full compliance with its right to self-determination, we are being called a revenge-seeking power trying to bring geopolitical rivalry back to international relations,”  Lavrov told the Russian Council for Foreign Affairs. “In reality, geopolitics never disappeared. There was simply an attempt to pretend that it was a prerogative of only a group of chosen countries capable of changing the situation around the world according to its own patterns.”

Last month, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel suggested that Putin wanted to reconstitute the old Soviet Union. ”Mr. Putin has made no secret and he said it publicly on more than one occasion over the years that the demise of the Soviet Union was a terrific mistake, it shouldn’t have happened, it was bad for the Russian people,” Hagel told PBS’s Charlie Rose. “Now, I think that’s a premise that he truly believes and I think that’s where he starts.”

Lavrov made the comments Wednesday, on the eve of a meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry. Before that meeting took place, Kerry reiterated that the United States wanted Russia to stop using Ukraine as a “pawn in a tug-of-war between other nations.”

Lavrov countered by suggesting that the United States is using Iraq, Syria, and Libya as pawns. “And the Russian–American agenda is much broader than just Ukraine,” he said. “We would like to see other countries like Iraq, Libya, Syria, many others, also to be in peace, not to be used as a pawn, and I hope that we can discuss all these things with the secretary here today.”

Read more:

Tags: Chuck Hagel , John Kerry , Vladimir Putin , Ukraine

Soldier Asks Hagel if Obama Will Give Rank-and-File ‘the Best Gear’


A soldier deployed in Afghanistan asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel if rank-and-file soldiers need a special lobbyist to ensure that they get “the best gear” under President Obama’s proposed military budget, a question that Hagel said “framed [the issue] pretty well.”

“In February of this year you said this is a time for reality, this is a budget that recognizes the magnitude of the reality of our recent challenges,” the soldier reminded Hagel during an event at Bagram Air Force Base. “My question is, since every program, every base, every facet of the budget has a lobbyist or a member of Congress or special interest group protecting it, what can service members do to ensure we don’t regress to the point of going to war with the army you have, under-trained, under-protected, with only elite units having the best gear?”

Hagel promised that they would get the necessary equipment. “I don’t want you to worry about that,” he replied. “That’s my job. That’s the president’s job.”

“One of the responsibilities of the commander-in-chief and the secretary of defense and the civilian leadership of our military is to protect our military, is to assure our military, that they will have what you need to stay ready, agile, capable, have the qualitative edge always on equipment, and every dimension of war,” he also said.

Obama’s budget signals a reliance on special-forces operations to combat terrorism as the bulk of the U.S. military withdraws from Afghanistan.

“The military’s elite special-operations forces, which burgeoned after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and were at the forefront of the U.S.fight against al-Qaida, will increase from their current level of roughly 66,000 service members to 69,700,” Defense One noted when the budget was unveiled in February. “This is one key example of how the military, even in more austere times, is trying to protect, as Hagel put it, ‘capabilities uniquely suited to the most likely missions of the future.’”

The U.S. Army as a whole, though, “would shrink to its lowest force size since before World War II.” 

Tags: Chuck Hagel , Defense Spending , Pentagon , Military

Has Anyone Seen Chuck Hagel Lately?


Then, when President Obama nominated Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense:

In the Senate, I came to admire his courage and his judgment, his willingness to speak his mind — even if it wasn’t popular, even if it defied the conventional wisdom.

Now, in Al Hunt’s column for Bloomberg:

The big four in the cabinet look more like the big three with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel being nearly invisible. Hagel, the former Republican Senator from Nebraska, who won confirmation after a bitter battle a year ago, has kept a surprisingly low profile in what is usually a high-visibility job . . . 

On the major foreign policy issues, such as Afghanistan, Iran and Syria, Hagel doesn’t appear to have a major voice. The Vietnam veteran is personally popular with much of the military but is often seen as lacking clout within President Barack Obama’s administration . . . 

Hagel’s visibility in Washington, other than at required or perfunctory events, remains minimal.

A quiet non-entity may be good by the standards of Obama’s cabinet. But with the Syria deal collapsing, the Iranian deal remaining secret, Ukraine and Venezuela blowing up, the situation in Afghanistan worsening with an erratic Karzai and no clear plan for a U.S. military presence beyond December, the potential loss of drone bases for targets in Pakistan, “al-Qa’ida raising its flag once again in the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi,” and, in the words of our intelligence chiefs, al-Qaeda “morphing and — and franchising itself and not only here but other areas of the world” . . . 

. . . maybe this isn’t the right time for a quiet, disregarded cipher to be running the Pentagon?

Have you seen this man? If so, call (202) 456-1111.

Tags: Chuck Hagel , Barack Obama

House: We Authorized the Death Gratuity. Why Won’t They Pay It?


I just chatted with a House aide who argues that the “death gratuity” — the $100,000 payment to families of U.S. servicemen — was originally covered by legislation passed by both Houses and signed into law, and that there is no reason for the Pentagon to claim they don’t have the funds or the authority to pay out those benefits.

“In the last week of September, the Department of Defense’s Comptroller Robert Hale warned that the death gratuity and other benefits would be affected by shutdown,” this aide said. “Following week, Congress passed, and the President signed the Pay Our Military Act which included authorization for all military benefits. Everyone felt relieved, believing military pay and benefits are protected.”

Then Thursday and Friday of last week, the aide said he and other Republican colleagues started to hear whispers from third parties that there was a problem with death gratuity. The House wasn’t notified by the Obama administration or made aware that Department of Defense felt they lacked authorization to pay that benefit.

On Friday, in response to the rumors, Representative Joe Wilson sent this letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel asking whether there was a problem with paying the death gratuity or other benefits, and whether this or any other benefits required specific authorizations from Congress.

There was never a response from Obama Administration or DoD to the congressional inquiry.

“Tuesday morning, we learn on NBC’s Today Show — not from DoD — that there are four KIAs coming home, and their families will not receive the death gratuity,” the aide said. “The only warning we had was from George Little on Twitter.

He’s referring to this tweet “Congress needs to act to end ‪#shutdown. Awful that we do not currently have authority to pay death gratuities for families of fallen heroes.”

The Wilson letter to Hagel specifically asked about the death gratuity, as well as benefits for covering burial costs.

“What legal justifications are Pentagon lawyers using to say they did not have authorization to pay the death gratuity?” this aide asks. “ What other benefits will DoD retroactively decide they cannot pay? Will we have to vote for every benefit, despite the broad authorization that we gave them in the Pay Our Military Act?”

The House is scheduled to vote on the bill specifically stating that the Pentagon is authorized to pay out the death gratuity.

“I don’t know why DoD felt like they needed authorization for this single benefit out of 60 or so, but even my cynical brain is unwilling to contemplate the possibility that the Obama administration’s sudden interest in fundamentalist interpretations of the law is related to heroes coming home to us in a box,” the aide concludes.

UPDATE: More from David French in the Corner:

Through a rather simple, good-faith drafting error, Congress gave the secretary of defense room to maneuver on the delivery of benefits to military families, and the Department of Defense’s civilian masters have made an incredible choice, one that no line unit in the military would ever make if it had control over funding for its own soldiers and their families: to exclude death benefits from the “pay and allowances” appropriated by Congress. There are two simple fixes. The simplest is for the Department of Defense to interpret the statute consistent with Congress’s intent and fund military benefits. The second is to pass correcting any ambiguity in the Pay Our Military Act. If the DOD doesn’t act, the House will, and surely the Senate will follow. Or will you, Senator Reid?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Today the House of Representatives voted, 425–0, to authorize the expenditure of funds for the death gratuity.

Tags: Government Shutdown , Chuck Hagel , Joe Wilson , Pentagon

Once Flights Begin, No One Can Guarantee ‘No Boots on the Ground’


Earlier this week, Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel attempted to emphasize that U.S. military action in Syria will not include “troops on the ground.”

The New York Times, today:

For the first time, the administration is talking about using American and French aircraft to conduct strikes on specific targets, in addition to ship-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles.

U.S. planes can be shot down. When they are shot down, we attempt to rescue our pilots. And then we have, at least for a short time period, several dozen “boots on the ground.” As seen in our intervention in Libya:

The Marines were assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., and are credited with quickly preparing and launching their Osprey from the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge with a 30-man recovery force. Under cover of darkness, they flew 150 miles to the crash sight of an Air Force F-15E near the city of Benghazi as part of a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel mission on March 22, 2011.

The Marines recovered Air Force pilot Maj. Kenneth Harney, who along with his weapons system officer, Capt. Tyler Stark, ejected from the aircraft into uncertain circumstances. Heavily armed forces were advancing on the port city in support of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who later died after he was captured by rebel forces. Armed rebels held the territory east of Benghazi at the time, but the pilots didn’t know if they posed a threat, too.

Everything turned out well in Libya, and in the Balkans in 1995:

United States marines staged an audacious rescue mission into the Bosnian war zone after dawn today, snatching up a missing American fighter pilot from his hiding place in the woods and helicoptering him to safety through a smattering of Bosnian Serb missile and machine-gun fire.
The Air Force pilot, Capt. Scott F. O’Grady, had been on the move stealthily in hilly woodlands for six nights before his guarded radio signals allowed rescuers to verify his survival and home in.

“This is Basher-52,” the 29-year-old combat pilot announced from hiding, using his code name in a rescue plea monitored by NATO officials. “I’m alive and I need help.”

Four helicopters and two jet fighters ultimately arrived in response. Captain O’Grady was jubilantly yanked into a helicopter in a drill-perfect two-minute operation after a score of marines leapt down onto Bosnia’s soil to secure the ground for his rescue.

But there’s always a chance that the forces involved with the rescue mission will encounter the enemy and exchange fire, leading to a larger conflict . . . 

Tags: Syria , John Kerry , Chuck Hagel

The Old ‘Engage Assad’ Crowd Now Compares Him to Hitler


From the Wednesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Persuasion Tip: Stop Comparing Your Old ‘Partner for Peace’ to Hitler

How’s this for irony? Chuck Hagel and John Kerry, writing in the Wall Street Journal (text found here), back on June 5, 2008, in an op-ed headlined, “It’s Time to Talk to Syria”:

After Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1991, President George H. W. Bush did the improbable and convinced Syrian President Hafez Assad to join an American-led coalition against a fellow Baathist regime.

Today, these leaders’ sons have another chance for a diplomatic breakthrough that could redefine the strategic landscape in the Middle East.

. . . While many doubt Syria’s intentions, we have real leverage and some inducements that have more value to Syria than cost to us. There is no guarantee of an agreement, but the potential payoff is huge, and our current policy is failing.

Of course, that was 110,000 dead and a couple of nerve-gas attacks ago. The desire to punish a murderous, brutal dictator for using abominable weapons is good and noble and right. But it’s insufferable to be told that we have to do this, by the crowd that a half-decade ago kept telling us how wrong we were about Bashar Assad, and how he was just a misunderstood, reasonable reformer.

During a debate, Obama said he was willing to meet with Assad in the first year of his administration. (The summit never took place.) Pelosi did meet with him, and said afterwards, “We came in friendship, hope, and determined that the road to Damascus is a road to peace.” Kerry met with him at least six times. Now Kerry tells us, “Bashar al-Assad now joins the list of Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein who have used these weapons in time of war,” and he’s alluding to the Holocaust.

You spent much of the past decade insisting we judged Assad too harshly. Let’s see some humility, fellas.

On Tuesday, the two guys who five years ago confidently assured the world of Assad’s value as a partner for peace went before the Senate and confidently assured the country that the administration’s plan for limited long-distance airstrikes would be quick and effective.

Hagel’s testimony showcased how the conventional wisdom about him was almost entirely wrong. Remember, he was supposed to be the quasi-isolationist budget-cutter who wanted to disengage from the Middle East. Perhaps he still is, and he’s stifling what he really believes in service to the president. Or perhaps he never really meant it, and merely grasped that the media would embrace and adore him as a veteran anti–Iraq War Republican. Or perhaps he’s not really sure what he thinks.

“Wait, you’re serious? You want me to go to the Hill and get them to sign off on this?”

War Salesman Hagel sounded quite different from War-Weary Skeptic Hagel — particularly when discussing Syria.

Chuck Hagel in May 2012:

“I think we’ve got to be very wise and careful on this and continue to work with the multilateral institutions in the lead in Syria. I don’t think America wants to be in the lead on this,” he said. “What you have to do is manage the problem. You manage it to a higher ground of possible solutions, ultimately to try to get to a resolution. You don’t have control over what’s going on in Syria.”

“You’ve got to be patient, smart, wise, manage the problem,” he said.

“We’ve got to understand great-power limitations. There are so many uncontrollable variables at play in Syria and the Middle East,” Hagel said. “You work through the multilateral institutions that are available, the U.N., the Arab league. The last thing you want is an American-led or Western-led invasion into Syria.”

Lesson: Nobody really knows how cabinet appointments will turn out. Foreign Policy magazine, back in December 2012:

With Hagel at the helm, Obama could proceed even more quickly with cutting the defense budget and retrenching abroad, while largely neutering his Republican adversaries. . . . He would also be a likely opponent of direct American intervention in Syria and push for as small a remaining military force in Afghanistan as possible. His entire thrust is to emphasize diplomacy over brute power. Hagel’s doctrine is crystal clear: No matter how well-intentioned America may be, it cannot single-handedly impose democracy abroad.

Chuck Hagel, back in 2007:

I have to say this is one of the most arrogant, incompetent administrations I’ve ever seen or ever read about. . . . They have failed the country.

The job’s a little harder than it looked from the outside, huh, Mr. Secretary?

Yesterday Ron Johnson, Wisconsin, asked a devastating question:

You say this is the world’s red line, not ours, and I agree. So how many partners will we have with us?

If sending troops is the price of stopping chemical attacks, almost all of the nations in the world are actually perfectly okay with chemical attacks, as long as they’re not downwind.

Tags: Chuck Hagel , John Kerry , Nancy Pelosi , Barack Obama , Syria

Chuck Hagel, Impending Placeholder


The Washington Post’s Walter Pincus compares Chuck Hagel, former senator and nominee to be secretary of defense, to the late Les Aspin, the former congressman who became Bill Clinton’s first secretary of defense.

As one of Aspin’s long-term friends, I was among those who warned him that he had to shape up if he took the Pentagon job. His every step would be weighed by the military, from the Joint Chiefs on down the chain of command.

I was sitting in the stands at Fort Myer during Aspin’s welcoming ceremony in 1993. I will never forget the murmurs among the officers and enlisted men around me when Aspin, slouching and out of step, reviewed the troops.

Almost immediately he faced complicated issues, but Aspin’s easy-going style never gained much respect within “the building” — the Pentagon. Criticized for Somalia decisions and troubled by a heart problem, he resigned in early 1994.

The irony about Hagel’s hearing performance is that it hid his feisty personality and left the impression he could be pushed around. More than a half-dozen times he apologized for making perfectly acceptable statements, sometimes not bothering to correct senators who took those statements out of context.

He seemed to forget — or never realized — that he had that equally important audience at the Pentagon and on military bases around the world.

Pincus insists Chuck Hagel is feisty. Perhaps.

But Hagel is also the man who told the Senate Armed Services Committee:

A number of questions were asked of me today about specific programs. Submarine programs, different areas of technology and acquisitions, our superior technology. And I’ve said I don’t know enough about it. I don’t. There are a lot of things I don’t know about. If confirmed, I intend to know a lot more than I do. I’ll have to. At the same time, I would never think this about me or that I will be running anything.

Does that sound like a man who can’t wait to get into the job? Does that sound like a man whose passion and drive will keep him going during the long hours and grueling schedule?

If confirmed, how quickly does Hagel burn out in the job? A year? Two years?

Tags: Chuck Hagel

Davos Elites Suddenly Realize U.S. Elected an Isolationist


The global elites who relentlessly cheered and applauded Barack Obama from the moment he appeared on the national stage suddenly realize the leader of the free world and arsenal of democracy is now managed by a quasi-isolationist:

As President Barack Obama starts his second term, the world’s business and political elite pines for greater American engagement to tackle a thicket of security challenges.

From Syria to Mali, from Iran to the South China Sea, the United States’ reluctance to be drawn into conflicts far from its shores was a leitmotiv of geopolitical debate at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos.

The absence of top Obama administration officials from the annual brainstorming and networking event in the Swiss mountains symbolized to some a perceived pullback from global leadership, even though it was Inauguration Week in Washington.

In the Washington Post this morning, Bob Woodward writes about the philosophy that defense-secretary nominee Chuck Hagel and President Obama share:

So, this thinking goes, the U.S. role in the world must be carefully scaled back — this is not a matter of choice but of facing reality; the military needs to be treated with deep skepticism; lots of strategic military and foreign policy thinking is out of date; and quagmires like Afghanistan should be avoided.

So those who are expecting the U.S. to take a leadership role from Syria to Mali, from Iran to the South China Sea . . . well, it appears that thinking is “out of date.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Chuck Hagel , Davos , Foreign Policy

Chuck Hagel in 2004: Reinstate the Draft


Here’s a fun question for Chuck Hagel’s confirmation hearing: does he still support reinstating the draft, as he suggested in 2004?

Speaking at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on post-occupation Iraq, Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., said, “There’s not an American … that doesn’t understand what we are engaged in today and what the prospects are for the future.”

Hagel, a member of the committee, says all Americans should be involved in the effort.

“Why shouldn’t we ask all of our citizens to bear some responsibility and pay some price?” Hagel said, arguing that restoring the draft would force “our citizens to understand the intensity and depth of challenges we face.”

The senator also argued re-instituting the draft, which ended in the early ’70s, would cause the burden of military service to be spread among all economic classes of people.

“Those who are serving today and dying today are the middle class and lower middle class,” he claimed.

While the Iraq war is over, what Hagel described at that hearing remains in place today — those in the military are middle class and lower middle class, and they are serving and dying in Afghanistan.

Hagel later said he wasn’t directly advocating reinstating the draft but that he wanted a national debate on the subject, contending he’s “not so sure it’s a bad idea.” He also supported the idea of “mandatory national service” for all Americans.

Tags: Barack Obama , Chuck Hagel

Conflict-Hungry President Picks His Next Big Fight


From the first Morning Jolt of the first full week of 2013…

The Hagel Hullabaloo: Conflict-Hungry President Picks His Next Fight

It’s official: “President Obama plans to nominate former senator Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican and Vietnam veteran, to be secretary of defense on Monday, according to a person close to the process and a senior administration official. The White House informed the Hagel camp over the weekend that Obama intends to announce the nomination at the White House on Monday.”

So, how does that confirmation fight look?

Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican freshman from Texas elected with strong backing from the tea party, said on “Fox News Sunday” that it was “very difficult to imagine a circumstance in which I could support (Hagel’s) confirmation.”

“It’s interesting, the president seems bound and determined to proceed down this path despite the fact that Hagel’s record is very, very troubling on the nation of Israel,” Cruz said. “He has not been a friend to Israel. And in my view the United States should stand unshakably with Israel.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, was softer in his tone toward Hagel, saying the former senator from Nebraska would receive a “thorough vetting” just like any other presidential nominee.

Robert Reich: “Wonder why the President is willing to spend his precious political capital getting Chuck Hagel confirmed as Defense Secretary.”

Because ever since he won reelection, he’s eager to pick fights to prove he can win them? Peggy Noonan summarized it this weekend:

I doubt now he has any intention of working with them on big reforms, of battling out a compromise at a conference table, of having long walks and long talks and making offers that are serious, that won’t be changed overnight to something else. The president intends to consistently beat his opponents and leave them looking bad, or, failing that, to lose to them sometimes and then make them look bad. That’s how he does politics.


Here’s my conjecture: In part it’s because he seems to like the tension. He likes cliffs, which is why it’s always a cliff with him and never a deal. He likes the high-stakes, tottering air of crisis. Maybe it makes him feel his mastery and reminds him how cool he is, unrattled while he rattles others. He can take it. Can they?

 Lindsey Graham seems to concur with that theory:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday expressed dismay at reports President Obama would tap former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) for Secretary of Defense, calling it an “in your face” selection.

“I like Chuck Hagel. He served with distinction in Vietnam as an enlisted man — two Purple Hearts. But quite frankly Chuck Hagel is out of the mainstream of thinking on most issues regarding foreign policy,” said Graham in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“He has long severed his ties with the Republican party. This is an in your face nomination of the president to all of us who are supportive of Israel,” he added. “I don’t know what his management experience is in regards to the Pentagon or global if anyway, so I think it’s an extremely controversial choice.”

Say, John Aravosis, how will gays welcome Hagel’s nomination? “Hagel’s public record on gay rights is abominable… I’m willing to believe that the man has changed in the past two years (though it seems awfully opportune). but I’d like some proof, or at the very least, a convincing explanation. We’re received neither.”

(sigh) …Here we go again.

Tags: Barack Obama , Chuck Hagel , Lindsey Graham , Ted Cruz




Actually, I did briefly think the Mayans knew something awful was going to happen this morning, when I couldn’t get my laptop to turn on. As you undoubtedly know, taking your computer to the tech guy at Staples or Best Buy or wherever is like a child going to the Principal’s office — all of a sudden, with a disapproving glare, the laptop’s behavior suddenly improves.

So in today’s slightly abbreviated edition of the Jolt:

Why Are Republicans Skeptical of Hagel? Hey, Why Are Democrats So Enthusiastic About Him?

Suddenly I get the feeling that Chuck Hagel’s expected nomination to be the next Secretary of Defense could very well end up succumbing to a left-right pincer movement of opposition.

Take a look at the latest Hagel nomination complication:

Former Sen. Chuck Hagel — a finalist for the post of Secretary of Defense in Obama’s second term — once opposed a nominee to be U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg because he was “openly aggressively gay.”

“Ambassadorial posts are sensitive,” Hagel told to the Omaha World-Herald in 1998, opposing the nomination of philanthropist James Hormel. “They are representing America,” he said. “They are representing our lifestyle, our values, our standards. And I think it is an inhibiting factor to be gay — openly aggressively gay like Mr. Hormel — to do an effective job.”

Some LGBT rights groups are already criticizing the potential selection of Hagel to replaced Leon Panetta.

Delicious. Think about how much we’ve had it pounded into our heads over the past fourteen years, by our media and political elites, that the act of believing that homosexuality is immoral or some sort of flaw represents the worst of hatred and bigotry in the modern world. And now think of all of those folks having to insist that the declaration “it is an inhibiting factor to be gay — openly aggressively gay like Mr. Hormel — to do an effective job” is no big deal. Obama and his friends are going to have to tie themselves into pretzels over this.

Sonny Bunch: “It really is remarkable how quickly Hagel’s chorus of supporters clammed up after the ‘aggressively gay’ comments came up. I’m impressed!”

Man, imagine what Hagel would think of a gay Zionist.

But gay and lesbian Democrats might not be the only folks shifting uncomfortably in their chairs as they examine Hagel’s past record. Matt Cooper writes:

It’s Hagel’s work on the environment that may prove to be a more nagging question — one hardly likely to derail a potential nomination but interesting nonetheless.

One of the first high profile things that Hagel worked on after coming to the U.S. Senate in 1997 was going after the Kyoto climate accord. He was a congressional observer at the meeting and, along with the late coal champion Sen. Robert Byrd, authored the resolution against it.

To be fair, that measure passed 95-0 and Hagel’s objections echoed that of many members, namely that too little was being asked of mega-polluters India and China. But it portended future opposition to environmental measures. Daily Kos reminds us that former Bush Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill recounts how, with Dick Cheney’s prodding, Hagel wrote a letter questioning new emissions standards put out by Christie Whitman’s EPA. Their full account is here.

All of this is relevant to the defense secretary’s job because of the huge energy impact the Pentagon has with all those ships, planes, trucks, troops, missiles, and helicopters.

So the anti-Hagel coalition is likely to include Iran outreach skeptics, defense spending fans, friends of Israel, gays and lesbians, and environmentalists. He’s a uniter, not a divider?

Alana Goodman, writing over at Contentions:

“Why make Democratic senators . . . walk the plank on this, when by finding a qualified Democrat, we can please the base?” a Jewish organization official told Mike Allen in the story above. Walking the plank is a good way to put it.

If Hagel is nominated, he will most likely get through, but it will be brutal for Democrats. Not just the confirmation process–though it will be embarrassing and damaging for Obama to have to defend some of the statements and positions Hagel’s critics will drag out. The real damage would come later–think of how the left demonized Donald Rumsfeld. Every move Hagel makes would be scrutinized and politicized. Anything controversial would be hung around the necks of the Democratic Party. For the most part, Republicans have gone easy on Obama’s defense secretaries, but that would change.

Josh Greenman, of the New York Daily News, summarizes what he calls the “Hagelian dialectic: trial balloon, thesis, antithesis, synthesis, nomination of someone else for Defense Secretary.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Chuck Hagel

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