Twilight of the Neocons: Chuck Hagel Edition

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 8 2013 3:36 PM

Twilight of the Neocons: Chuck Hagel Edition

My newest article looks at the surprisingly small, but well-connected, universe of Chuck Hagel opponents, who had a really good run at the nominee until he became... well, an actual nominee.

The closer you get, the smaller it looks. Allied against Hagel are a relatively small group of D.C. conservatives and hawks, people who’ve been successful in some intra-D.C. fights but got wiped out in the 2012 election. Their strongest weapons against Hagel might have already been deployed, in an effort to spike the nomination while it was still in the embryonic, cocktail-party-chatter stage. But they’re in the thick of it now, framing the Hagel confirmation vote as a test of whether one is for or against Israel, open-minded or anti-Semitic, anti-Iran or genocidal.

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Contained within this article, and this moment, are a few ridiculous paradoxes.

- It's easier to dogpile a nominee for a low-level job than for a truly important job. The lower stakes benefit the critics, who stand a greater chance of the enemy saying "ah, screw it, I don't need this distraction.

- It's easier to "rule out" a nominee than to beat one in committee. Obviously, an administration snuffs out a nominee if, during the trial balloon phase, it appears that he/she lacks the votes. The administration moves ahead if the votes look gettable. The nominee transforms from a cipher to a person doing battle with blowhards on C-Span -- which often goes well for the witness. (Ask Oliver North, ask George Galloway.)

The anti-Hagelites are aware that they're slogging uphill. For all the hype, only five Republican senators have sworn to vote against the nominee. That's about as many as swore to oppose Susan Rice, and that's just it -- you don't know how real the opposition is until you test it.

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