Not since the eminently forgettable and now justly forgotten Louis A. Johnson was chosen to dismantle the country's military budget after the Second World War -- just in time to leave this country woefully unprepared for the Korean one -- has a nominee for secretary of defense represented so clear and present a danger to the national security.
This time his name is Chuck Hagel, a former senator of shifting convictions about the country's defense, much of whose political career has been devoted to undermining that defense -- when he wasn't using high office to peddle low prejudices. Like the dangers of "ostentatious" homosexuals in the Foreign Service, or a Jewish conspiracy dominating American politics. Such is the man this president has chosen to protect the nation's security, God help us all.
Senate of the United States, also known as the filibuster.
No doubt many of those protections have been abused to thwart the will of the majority. But there comes a time when the will of the majority very much needs thwarting. As when a heedless majority is about to make not just a bad but a dangerous decision by a party-line vote. A time like now.
For a handy summation of the many good reasons to block the nomination of Charles Hagel as the country's next secretary of defense, nothing can beat the transcript of his confirmation hearings, which amounted to one embarrassing debacle after another for the nominee. There were so many it is impossible to detail them all in a single column.
To cite one: This is a senator who supported going to war in Iraq, complete with beating drums and blaring bugles. But when the outlook turned bleak there, and our troops needed all the support they could get on the home front, Senator Hagel sounded retreat -- indeed, surrender.
At that decisive point, Senator Hagel not only opposed but denounced the Surge that would save the day, not to mention a war, a country and the prospects for freedom in the most turbulent and dangerous part of the globe. The moral of this story: On him you shouldn't count. Especially as secretary of defense.
Other examples of Chuck Hagel's comprehensive lack of qualifications for any position of responsibility in the Department of Defense, let alone head of it, abound. The man even voted against designating the Revolutionary Guards, Iran's terrorist spearhead, as a terrorist organization. That was in 2007, when the Guards were still flooding Iraq with the IEDs used to kill American GIs.
. . .
Of all the former senator's grave misjudgments and petty prejudices on display during his day-long disaster called confirmation hearings, two exchanges stand out.
The first came when John McCain, still defending freedom after all these years, pressed the nominee to admit an obvious fact: The Surge had worked. And he'd been wrong, dead wrong, not just to oppose it but to denounce it -- in the strongest terms -- and predict it would never work.
After a game try at evading Senator McCain's persistent questions about the Surge and his blind opposition to it, Chuck Hagel finally said he would "defer that judgment to history" -- an elevated way of dodging the whole issue.
To which Senator McCain, in a revealing moment and decisive verdict, responded: "I think history has already made a judgment about the Surge, sir, and you're on the wrong side of it." Q.E.D.
The other revelation came during Mr. Hagel's colloquy with Lindsey Graham, the senator from South Carolina, who with John McCain and Joe Lieberman has never wavered in his support of our troops and their cause. That interchange deserves quoting in full:
Senator Graham: Let us talk a little bit about statements you've made. You've explained this a bit. You said, 'The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here. I'm not an Israeli senator, I'm a United States senator. This pressure makes us do dumb things at times.' ... Name one person in your opinion who's intimidated by the Israeli lobby in the United States Senate.
Mr. Hagel: Well, first --
Graham: Name one.
Hagel: I don't know.
Graham: Well, why would you say it?