Hagel would do himself and the president a big favor by stepping aside. His performance during his confirmation hearings was embarrassing. He seemed woefully ignorant of the president's own policies toward a nuclear Iran. At one point, he said, "I support the president's strong position on containment," suggesting the president believes a nuclear-armed Iran can be "contained" much as the Soviet Union was during the Cold War. But President Obama has not suggested he favors containment, which would be a green light to the Iranians to move ahead with their plans to develop nuclear weapons. So Hagel later tried to correct the record, but in doing so, he made himself look like a fool. In fact, his inability to answer questions before the Senate committee alone should be enough to derail his nomination.
The president has a right to nominate his cabinet -- but the Constitution doesn't give him a blank check. The Senate also plays an important role in advising and consenting on presidential appointments. President Obama may have thought he was extending an olive branch to Republicans by picking a former GOP-elected official for his defense secretary. But Hagel is a caricature of the Republican Party -- a man whose personal prejudices (his anti-gay comments about a Clinton nominee seem to have been largely forgotten by his liberal backers) are cringe-inducing and who is as ill-informed as he is inarticulate.
The Senate will take up Hagel's nomination next week after Thursday's threatened filibuster delayed the vote. That is unless the president admits his mistake and pulls the nomination. The country would be better served if he did.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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