The battle over the confirmation of former Senator Chuck Hagel (R–NE) for Secretary of Defense boils down to one thing and one thing only: competence. On this one all-important criterion, Hagel flatly fails the test.
A variety of arguments have been made in favor of Hagel that have nothing to do with the man’s suitability at the helm of the Pentagon, a vast and complex organization. President Obama himself, during the presentation of the Hagel nomination, offered as Hagel’s main qualification the aspiring Defense Secretary’s service in Vietnam.
The Washington Post, in its blog The Fix, argued on Monday that opposition to Hagel from the right is nothing but a fishing expedition and “a partisan political play.” And a Huffington Post column on Monday posited that opposition is the “death throes of the neoconservatives’ hold on United States foreign policy that makes the confirmation of Hagel and the installation of the Biden-Kerry-Hagel team so critically important for the United States and the world.”
Yet the fact remains that Hagel is simply unprepared and unsuited to leading the Department of Defense at this critical juncture. As noted by James Carafano, vice president for foreign policy of The Heritage Foundation:
- Hagel does not have the executive and managerial experience to lead a big complex department such as the Pentagon.
- He embraces dangerously naïve policies such as “nuclear zero,” the dream of a world without nuclear weapons.
- He advocates talking to and engaging America’s enemies, such as Syria and Iran, the latter of which recently rejected outright any idea of bilateral talks with the Obama Administration. Meanwhile, Hagel appears never to have missed an opportunity to beat up on Israel, one of the strongest allies of the United States.
Senator John McCain (R–AZ), who reluctantly supported the filibuster of the Hagel nomination on Thursday but apparently reversed himself on Sunday, gave Hagel the most back-handed endorsement imaginable. “No, I don’t believe he’s qualified,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “But I don’t believe that we should hold up his nomination any further.”
And on “Fox News Sunday,” Senator Lindsay Graham (R–SC) who was a driving force in the filibuster holding up the Hagel nomination, said he believed Hagel to be “one of the most unqualified, radical choices for Secretary of Defense in a very long time.” “But at the end of the day,” Graham continued, “this is the President’s decision. I give him great discretion.”
Giving the President anything—or anyone—he wants is not what the Senate’s advice and consent responsibility is all about. It is about finding the best person for the job, and for Defense, Chuck Hagel is not it.