Paul Greenberg

When he was asked during his confirmation hearing Thursday -- by John McCain -- if he cared to explain that remark now, the nominee declined, saying he would "defer to the judgment of history." Neat. But not neat enough. For then came McCain's response: "I think history has already made its judgment on the Surge, and, you, sir, are on the wrong side of it."

The rest of Hagel's record in the Senate is equally distinguished -- by calls for retreat and for cuts in American defense. All of which may fit in well with Obama's view of an America that needs to be reined in. (We can all see how well that's working in Syria.) The massive downsizing that this administration proposes for the American military is dangerous enough without having a Chuck Hagel wielding the scalpel, or rather meat ax.

A number of senators, if not yet a sufficient number, have given notice that they won't be going along quietly with the Hagel nomination. May their tribe increase. Before it's too late to stop this ill-advised, and dangerous, nomination.

There are other reasons to oppose Hagel's nomination besides the kind of votes and statements that would make Neville Chamberlain proud. Like the nominee's embarrassing remark about an ambassadorial nominee being too "aggressively gay." (Strange. I can't find any evidence in the record that Hagel ever criticized anyone for being too aggressively straight, à la Bill Clinton.) Happily, the nominee has apologized for that slur.

Then there is the way Senator Hagel used to inveigh against a Jewish Lobby à la the Elders of Zion. But he's done his best to back away from that kind of paranoia. Or at least he's been going from Senate office to Senate office explaining what a great friend he is to the Jews. (With friends like him . . .)

But it's his criticisms of American policy, not Israeli policy that ought to disqualify Chuck Hagel for any post of responsibility in the Department of Defense, let alone at its head. There is such a thing as a president of the United States picking a Cabinet secretary who is entirely too much like himself.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.