ABC News Chief White House Correspondent on Twitter - Jonathan Karl
This quote from Hagel today is an instant classic: "If confirmed, I intend to know a lot more than I do".
That was an actual quote from Secretary of Defense nominee, Chuck Hagel during his Senate Armed Forces Committee hearing. It was just one of many quotes that will be recited as anyone who watched the hearing shakes his/her head and wonders what in the world Hagel was thinking as he sat in that chair facing the committee to answer their questions.
As pointed out HERE, Hagel is no novice. He is in possession of qualifications for the position.
Hagel, as a former Republican U.S. Senator from Nebraska and Chairman of the Armed Services Committee might be uniquely qualified to oversee the long-term re-ordering of our military forces in a time of withdrawal from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the short term issues that attend the looming sequester. A former infantryman in Vietnam with two Purple Hearts, Hagel should have been sailing through the confirmation process as easily as former Naval officer in Vietnam, John Kerry, sailed through his confirmation to be Secretary of State.
And, unlike Kerry, he didn't begin his political career by throwing his medals over the fence at the White House, going on to slander and outright lie in Winter Soldier theatre of the absurd.
As most reasonable people do, I, too believe that a president is entitled to his choice of cabinet members. These are the people with whom a president will work most closely with and he should pick accordingly. Under our Constitution, it is the job of the Senate to advise and consent on these nominees. All of this is simple enough to understand.
Sometimes something so odd happens, though, that it makes me pause and think perhaps a nominee shouldn't be confirmed after all. Thursday was one of those times.
I've been upfront with my disapproval of the Hagel nomination but I recognized all along that he will be the next Secretary of Defense. There are enough Democrats in the Senate to allow that conclusion. After the hearing, though, I do believe it may be a close vote.
Even though Hagel has a good resume for the job and he won't be making policy, it is hard to think of him in comparison to the last few people who have held that position. Even just going back to the 1980's, does Hagel fit in among Weinberger, Carlucci, Cheney, Aspin, Perry, Cohen, Rumsfeld, Gates and Panetta? Maybe one didn't always agree with the men on their opinions offered on foreign policy matters but all of them rose to the occasion and none made the listener question the sincerity or thought process of the answer.
The problem with an opportunist like Hagel is we never know who will show up. Also it was abundantly clear that he isn't up to date on some important positions held by the administration in which he hopes to serve. Time and time again, Democrats came to his rescue and led him through cleaning up a previous answer.
This from a summary of Thursday's hearing:According to numerous sources a staffer passed Hagel a note after which, having read it, Hagel said:
"I misspoke and said I supported the president's position on containment. If I said that, I meant to say we don't have a position on containment."
But, as the Chairman of the Committee, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), pointed out, "We do have a position on containment, and that is we do not favor containment. I just wanted to clarify the clarify."
That is an important distinction, don't you agree? Someone had to pass him a note and the Chairman had to define the administration's actual position.Hagel not only embarrassed himself with his bumbling and odd performance, he embarrassed the president under whom he will serve. Hagel has begged for this job since the 2008 election cycle when he chose to support and campaign with Obama instead of John McCain. There is no love lost between McCain and Hagel. One would have thought Hagel would have been well-prepared to explain his flip-flopping on some major issues, especially statements on Iran, Israel and the Iraq war that he had to have known would come up.
Democrats and Republicans alike were flabbergasted at the performance exhibited by Hagel. Certainly people like me who were watching on C-SPAN were surprised at just how incompetent Hagel looked.
I don't think Hagel is smart enough for the job. I also don't think Hagel has the strength of character to be confident in his own opinions - he changes them to fit the situation. During the hearing it appeared he was changing his opinions before our eyes.
The honorable thing to do is for Hagel to ask the president to withdraw his nomination. I think his ego will not allow him to do the right thing, as he clearly is not ready for this promotion, more is the pity.