Editor's Note: This column was coauthored by Bob Morrison.
Former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be Secretary of Defense should be withdrawn now. He delivered what may be the worst performance at a confirmation hearing ever given. He was described as “confused,” “befuddled,” and “self contradicting.” One of Mr. Hagel’s own backers deplored the lack of “charisma” the nominee showed during the hearings.
Was this just a "Bad Hair Day"for Mr. Hagel?
“Hagel, who can be hilarious, didn’t show much of that today,” said Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation. Let the record show that never before has “hilarious” been offered as a qualification for a Cabinet officer supervises America’s nuclear arsenal.
Perhaps the lowest moment of the entire dismal day occurred when an aide helpfully passed Sen. Hagel a note. We are not privy to its contents, but it prompted the embattled nominee to correct himself.
He did not—as he had just testified under oath—support the president’s containment policy toward an Iran with nuclear weapons. That was because the president has said over and over again: He favors preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, not containing a nuclear Iran. He does not have a containment policy.
In a chess game, you would turn over your king. In tennis, you’d hop over the net to congratulate your victorious opponent. In short, if you have to do something like that under the full glare of klieg lights, you’ve lost all credibility.
Before yesterday’s hearings, the Chuck Hagel nomination was simply very controversial.
He had made alarming statements and cast alarming votes during his Senate career. He had opposed economic sanctions against Iran. We have expressed our own skepticism about the efficacy of these sanctions.
But Sen. Hagel also opposed naming the Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization. It is common knowledge that Iran backs Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Both of these outfits are terrorist gangs, so described routinely by the U.S. government. Naming the home office of Mideast terrorism a terrorist organization should not be hard. But it was too hard for Chuck Hagel.
After yesterday’s hearings, we have an entirely new set of concerns. Sen. Hagel has never administered any large organization—in private industry or in government. The Pentagon is a huge bureaucracy.