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Can Hagel be an effective Secretary? UPDATE 2

The Senate Armed Services Committee had a heated exchange in deciding to send Chuck Hagel's nomination for Secretary of Defense to the full Senate. Details here. In fact, it was quite vicious. Now the Senate vote is stalled over threats of filibuster and/or other procedural tangles. Details here.But going back to the almost beginning: I just read an apparently full account of Senator Schumer's press conference after his discussion with Hagel. Schumer subsequently blessed his nomination. If Schumer is accurately representing Hagel's statements to him, it would seem that Hagel gave way on every issue that has created the controversy and that has led critics of the "bomb Iran" campaign to support him. Should we believe Schumer? What has Hagel promised?Of course, the president will shape the policy and make any decisions about Iran and the Middle East. The question is: Has Hagel been hopelessly compromised, first by Schumer and now by the Republicans accusing him of being a traitor.UPDATE: GOP blocks vote on HagleUPDATE II: "An irked Obama is dead set on installing his pick at the Pentagon even though the bitter battle over his confirmation is likely to leave lasting scars on his nominee at a time of looming military cuts and dangerous new developments in Iran and North Korea." At Politico

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I trust that Hagel and Obama will sort this out. For Obama to back away from Hagel at this point will only embolden those who are looking for anything that will diminish Obama's effectiveness.

President Obama tried to be bi-partisan, and look where it got him. Now the whole thing is in a hopeless tangle. For a Secretary of Transportation to enter office somewhat damaged probably wouldn't matter all that much. But the Secretary of Defense! If Hagel were to withdraw, I don't think Obama would be hurt over the long term.

Of course Hagel will be an effective DoD chief. The GOP defence industry would deal with anybody who bought their crap. That's why it's wise to police them so that Iran and No Korea don't do deals with the arms traffickers... say hello to 30 clip magazines.

Schumer said essentially the same thing on Meet The Press a month ago. See the link in my comment of 1/20/13 at 3:48 pm in your 1/15/13 thread Catching up ... and update. And at that time in your follow on comment, you expressed doubt that Schumer was telling the truth, as you have again now. But isnt everything Schumer said back then on Meet the Press and in the 1/15/13 LA Times article that you link to now consistent with the subsequent testimony given by Hagel in his confirmation hearing, which testimony we have now to go by?And dont all of his changes including the ones on gays simply bring his views into line with the stated views of the administration that he will serve in, if confirmed?As Ive said before, he wouldnt have been nominated and wouldnt have accepted the nomination if he hadnt been willing to do that. So, I dont think theres anything to be surprised about.What really would have compromised Hagels effectiveness as Secretary of Defense is if he went into office with the stated agenda of fighting the policies of the administration that nominated him for the position. But as I say, that was never going to happen.

Maybe Schumer was telling the truth, or maybe he was saying what needed to be said in order to support the president. Having been identified in most account as the Jewish senator who approved Hagel, he was treading on thin ice with a number of different audiences.And it may be that in the end Hagel will find himself vindicated when the president decides not to bomb Iran. There may turn out to be many things to be surprised about.

But isn't what Schumer said confirmed by Hagel's subsequent Congressional testimony and don't the changes in Hagel's positions just bring him into line with the President's stated policies? You didn't respond to these points.Perhaps you're right that if sanctions don't work, the President will stand down on his declarations that he won't allow Iran to get nuclear weapons. At this point I'm taking him at his word, but we'll just have to wait and see. And maybe sanctions will work.And I don't know what "thin Ice" Schumer was treading on by "being identified in most accounts as the Jewish senator who approved Hagel." Perhaps you'll elaborate, but probably not.

And by the way, what is your basis for claiming that most accounts identified Schumer as a Jew? He wasn't identified as a Jew in the L.A Times article that you linked to above and he wasn't in the Meet The Press interview that I linked to.

Senator Graham and crowd are just upset with Hagel because Hagel is not in the hard-right camp. Being a Midwesterner, Hagel is more pragmatic. This just shows a bit of a spilt in the Republicans. Regionally, Midwestern and Northeastern Republicans track more to the center than Western and Southern Republicans do. Texas and Louisiana Republicans also tend to be more moderate, especially regarding Mexican indocumentados. California and Southern state Republicans seem more strident and more to the Right than the rest of the party.Hagel will do just fine as Secretary of Defense. He obviously can work with the President, , he is tight with the money, and he is not keen foreign entanglements. That is good, because we do not have extra money now, and most Americans are in the mood for a bit of isolationism; for a rest or break in US politicos blathering and sending out boys half way round the globe trying to save and/or change other parts of the world.For what its worth, Graham and his sort did not like Ron Pauls views on the military and foreign affairs either - or Pat Buchanans either, for that matter.

Jeff: Are the president's stated policies on Iran, the policies he will pursue. We shall see.More Jeff: Thin ice: As you know, there was a great deal of discussion in the Jewish community about Hagel's appointment. In some Jewish quarters there was vigorous opposition (a few even called Hagel an anti-Semite). Schumer's role in vetting him was extremely important in either resolving the issues raised or confirming them. For whom was he resolving the issues? For those in the Jewish community opposed to Hagel, or perhaps those on the fence, and perhaps for some Republicans. Did Schumer's comments quell the opposition? In some quarters yes, in others no. The thin ice was his need to respond to the executive branch, both Jewish critics and supporters of Hagel, and the rest of us.Most of the accounts I read mentioned that Schumer was Jewish (including his hometown paper, the NYTimes). Why? Because it was germane to role he was playing in vetting Hagel. Senator Patrick Leahy would hardly have served. The LA Times link I put up was simply an account of his press conference not a full-blown news story. Did they mention it in their new stores? I don't know. Your defensiveness does you credit, I suppose. But I have no obligation to answer every point you make.

GOP in Senate block Hagel with filibuster tactic. the 60 votes needed to shut down the GOP objections to Hagel were 58 to 40. one voted present. Graham still thinks it about Benghazi. The election price will be/should be high for GOP in 2014.

Not to worry; this is just a senatorial dance of sorts (the Fox Trot comes to mind). Graham will back down and Hagel will be confirmed - all in due course.Yawn -

Youre defensiveness does you credit, I suppose. But I have no obligation to answer every point you make.No, you dont have to say why you keep suggesting that Schumer might not be telling the truth about his conversation in January with Hagel [If Schumer is accurately representing Hagels statements to him ... and Should we believe Schumer?] when weve known out of Hagels own mouth since his testimony before the Congressional committee that Schumer was, in fact, telling the truth. But the defensiveness, if thats the right word, is not in asking the question, but in ignoring it.

New Navy planes still on track to cost 400 billion with no GOP questions in hearings.? These planes are needed to take out those African pickup trucks with loosely mounted machine guns? With a rocket that costs 20 times the cost of the pickup? Unlike Lindsey Graham and the rest of the GOP I have real questions.

Ken: yawn, if you will; perhaps you're right. However, tonight on the Newshour, Mark Thompson, Pentagon reporter for Time magazine, said that in the ten day hiatus, right-wing Republicans will be combing Hagel's speeches and videos looking to bring him down.

Wonk ish... Hagel will be appointed we aren't going to bomb Iran in this administration.

On the question of Hagel's declarations and what to make of them: http://mjayrosenberg.com/2013/02/02/why-hagel-had-to-lie/#comments

So the Republicans have prevented a vote. Here we go again. Sigh.

But, Ed, there is twenty times more profit to make the new Navy guns. That's why they're needed, silly.

A yawn from Ken is high praise indeed.

In my comment of 1/8/13 11:28 am in the thread entitled John Brennan: another Catholic in the upper reaches UPDATE, I said this about the Hagel nomination:Based on what I saw on the Sunday morning talk shows, the main opposition to Hagel will come from GOP senators. And they will not say out loud in what their main opposition consists. Lest we forget, in 2007 Hagel said of the head of his own party, George W. Bush, that he was the worst president in 40 years, or words to that effect. And in 2008, he said, if asked, he would consider running as Obamas VP against John McCain, the nominee of his own party. These are big pluses for Hagel as far as Im concerned, but the GOP seems not to think so. The long knives are out.Heres what John McCain said on Fox News, yesterday: He will probably get the votes when we return from the recess unless something pops up and thats doubtful that it will. To be honest with you Neil, it goes back to there is a lot of ill will towards senator Hagel because when he was a Republican he attacked president Bush mercilessly. At one point said he was the worst president since Herbert Hoover. Said the surge was the worst blunder since the Vietnam War which is non-sense. And was very anti his own party and people. People dont forget that. McCain neglected to mention his own animus towards Hagel, or the reasons for it.

This, to me, is perhaps the most stunning thing about the whole affair. As Jeff points out above (2/5, 9:09 am), Sen. McCain and his Republican colleagues filibustered a Defense Secretary nominee when the U. S. is at war *because their feelings are hurt*.

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About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.