The Corner

Hagel and Brennan

I think President Obama will get Hagel and Brennan through. The Senate won’t rubber-stamp Hagel, but I wouldn’t expect a Borking either. My big question is whether his confirmation process will fall under the aegis of whatever new filibuster restrictions McConnell and Reid will settle on, and thus whether he’ll be able to get through with a 51-vote threshold throughout.

I have to admit, though I wasn’t surprised that Obama would float Hagel’s name, I was surprised that he’d follow through with an actual nomination after all the push back. The president’s nominations are often leftward of his rhetoric, but he has also shown a willingness to cut bait — from Van Jones to Susan Rice — when things go sideways. His sticking with Hagel might be a signal that second-term Obama is going to let his freak flag fly a bit more. I think presidents should have fairly wide latitude on appointments, but Hagel pretty unambiguously represents views on, e.g., appropriate defense spending levels, Israel, and Iran that are dove-ward of the president’s stated positions, and his confirmation would send a message of at least relative retrenchment and disengagement (see Reihan’s good roundup over at The Agenda). VDH is right to point out that Hagel, like Brennan, has been marked by a certain ideological plasticity that has served him well during the transition from Bush’s to Obama’s America. And perhaps, like Obama himself, Hagel the SecDef will come to embrace some of what Hagel the self-martyred-Republican-in-exhile scorned. We’ll see.


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