Paul Greenberg

Other examples of Chuck Hagel's comprehensive lack of qualifications for any position of responsibility in the Department of Defense, let alone head of it, abound. The man even voted against designating the Revolutionary Guards, Iran's terrorist spearhead, as a terrorist organization. That was in 2007, when the Guards were still flooding Iraq with the IEDs used to kill American GIs.

Of all the former senator's grave misjudgments and petty prejudices on display during his day-long disaster called confirmation hearings, two exchanges stand out.

The first came when John McCain, still defending freedom after all these years, pressed the nominee to admit an obvious fact: The Surge had worked. And he'd been wrong, dead wrong, not just to oppose it but to denounce it -- in the strongest terms -- and predict it would never work.

After a game try at evading Senator McCain's persistent questions about the Surge and his blind opposition to it, Chuck Hagel finally said he would "defer that judgment to history" -- an elevated way of dodging the whole issue.

To which Senator McCain, in a revealing moment and decisive verdict, responded: "I think history has already made a judgment about the Surge, sir, and you're on the wrong side of it." Q.E.D.

The other revelation came during Mr. Hagel's colloquy with Lindsey Graham, the senator from South Carolina, who with John McCain and Joe Lieberman has never wavered in his support of our troops and their cause. That interchange deserves quoting in full:

Senator Graham: Let us talk a little bit about statements you've made. You've explained this a bit. You said, 'The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here. I'm not an Israeli senator, I'm a United States senator. This pressure makes us do dumb things at times.' ... Name one person in your opinion who's intimidated by the Israeli lobby in the United States Senate.

Mr. Hagel: Well, first --

Graham: Name one.

Hagel: I don't know.

Graham: Well, why would you say it?

Hagel: I didn't have in mind a specific--

Graham: Do you agree it's a provocative statement? That I can't think of a more provocative thing to say about the relationship between the United States and Israel and the Senate or the Congress than what you said? Name one dumb thing we've been goaded into doing because of the pressure from the Israeli or Jewish lobby.

Hagel: I have already stated that I regret the terminology I used.

Graham: But you said back then, 'it makes us do dumb things.' You can't name one senator intimidated. Now give me one example of the dumb things that we are pressured to do up here.

Hagel: We were talking in that interview about the Middle East, about positions, about Israel, that's what I was referring to.

Graham: So give me an example of where we have been intimidated by the Israeli/Jewish lobby to do something dumb regarding the Mideast, Israel or anywhere else.

Hagel: Well, I can't give you an example.

Graham: Thank you.

Case closed.

Nothing his critics can say about having Chuck Hagel as the next secretary of defense can be as damning as his own baseless words. Or his silence when asked to back them up. A silence that speaks volumes.

Chuck Hagel's qualifications for the post he so ardently seeks begin with his sterling war record. Unfortunately, that's where they end.

The man is a disaster waiting to happen at Defense -- think Benghazis galore. Happily, the Senate chose to delay Mr. Hagel's nomination by a vote of 58 to 40 last week, a couple of votes short of the 60 required to end a filibuster.

Having won a brief reprieve from this nominee's confirmation, senators like John McCain and Lindsey Graham and the rest of this political minority need to keep fightin'. And keep talking.

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.