One of the many things I noticed when I wisely opted for “Zero Dark Thirty” over the Super Bowl last night, was that the Secretary of Defense (played James Gandolfini) was anything but a cipher in the process leading up to the killing Osama bin Laden. The Defense post is especially important now, when the world is a particularly dangerous place, and quick, knowledgeable decisions likely will be required of the next secretary.
I don’t know who would have played Chuck Hagen if he’d been Secretary of Defense at the time, but, based on Hagel’s performance at his confirmation hearing, the idea of having him play a key role in making these decisions is not comforting. Yeah, it's a movie but a great deal of research and history are contained in it.
Is Senator Hagel fit to be Secretary of Defense? Confirmation hearings may have become gladiatorial battles over ideology in recent times, but the original and proper purpose of making sure the nominee is fit for the job should not be forgotten.
Perhaps the most astonishing moment (and there was lots of competition) came when Hagel got the administration’s policy on containment of a nuclear Iran wrong: he said he supports the president's policy on containment only to be handed a note a moment later saying that we don't have a policy on containment.
The American Spectator captures Hagel’s disturbing performance on Israel:
His performance — on Israel, the Iraq surge, on the future strength of our military — was comprehensively awful. Having said that the “Jewish lobby” has intimidated many members of Congress, Hagel couldn’t name a single one who he believed had been intimidated. Having previously said that the Iraq surge was our biggest foreign policy mistake since Vietnam, Hagel refused to answer Sen. McCain’s question on whether the surge was a mistake or not. He abandoned his long-held beliefs so often many senators such as Texas’ Ted Cruz simply didn’t believe what he said.
No cabinet nominee in living memory has performed so badly in a confirmation hearing. Hagel, who has said that the Pentagon budget was “bloated” and needed to be cut, didn’t show much — really any — knowledge about how the budget was structured or how it stands after the $500 billion in cuts that have already been made or what the future effects will be of the sequestration of funds — which will happen next month — that will add another $600 billion in cuts over the next decade.
Just for the record, I am not against re-examining the Pentagon budget—when we are consistently defeated by tribesmen in Afghanistan, it is time to do some soul searching and maybe even some re-allocation, including possibly cutting, of funds. The idea of doing this with Hagel in the top job is less than reassuring.
When the Senators vote to confirm Hagel, as is likely, it will not be a profile in courage.
It will be one of the supreme ironies of confirmation hearing history that the late Robert Bork, one of the most distinguished jurists of the last half century, didn’t survive his hearings and go on to honor the Supreme Court with his judicial wisdom, while Chuck Hagel likely will pass muster.
A no for Robert Bork and a yes for Chuck Hagel—something's very wrong with our confirmation process.