Bill Kristol's Briar Patch Case for Dems to Dump Hagel

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 1 2013 3:11 PM

Bill Kristol's Briar Patch Case for Dems to Dump Hagel

I wrote this morning that the anti-Hagelian "Plan A" -- get a Democrat to come out against the guy -- had failed. And then Bill Kristol brushed that dirt off his shoulder and wrote an open letter calling Hagel the modern Harriet Miers -- a dummy who should be junked for someone less offensive.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

There isn’t an intelligent liberal, or for that matter a sentient one, who doesn’t know, after last week’s confirmation hearing, that Chuck Hagel isn’t a first-rate candidate for secretary of defense. He isn’t even a second-rate candidate. Has there ever been a more embarrassing confirmation hearing than Hagel’s for a major cabinet position? For a minor cabinet position? For a sub-cabinet position? We don’t know of one.
Advertisement

Kristol is right about one thing. The Hagel defenders arguing that he aquitted himself well in the the hearings defy all evidence and belief. I was there, and he stunk up the place. I watched Carl Levin close his eyes with an "oh-god" expression when Hagel muffed a question about Iran. I watched Hagel turn to a friend in the audience during one break and say he'd wished he had copies of some of his good speeches.

But the problem with Miers, from a conservative perspective, was not that she was unimpressive. It was that she was an old (60 years old) candidate for a lifetime appointment, and that she had shown flashes of unacceptable liberalism, like her occasional pro-choice advocacy before she joined the Bush orbit. Her unimpressiveness was the nonideological lever used by Republicans to dump her through a trap door.

Hagel poses no such problems for Democrats. They do not worry, at all, about his prior conservative views on social issues. They know that the major objections to him come because of his anti-Iraq War fulminating and his realist views on Israel. Only 20 members of the 55-member Democratic conference were around for the 2002 Iraq vote, and they either opposed it then or have come to oppose it since. On Israel, they might not agree with him, but they agree with Barney Frank that because "the attack is coming from the right," it would be a liberal "setback" if they bailed on Hagel. One thing that proves it: Bill Kristol wants them to tank Hagel!

That said, I admire the effort that Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk put into his official announcement that he'd oppose Hagel.

During yesterday's confirmation hearing, Senator Hagel instinctively called the Iranian government both elected and legitimate.  He initially offered strong support for containment of Iran, rather than President Obama's stated policy of preventing an Iranian nuclear breakout.

It's written as if Kirk just made up his mind, but nobody believes that. His aide Richard Goldberg (whom I've known for 11 years, full disclosure) has been in close contact with anti-Hagelians, e-mailing them oppo that could hurt the candidate. The Brits have a phrase to describe all this: Too clever by half.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 6:35 PM Pabst Blue Ribbon is Being Sold to the Russians, Was So Over Anyway
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.