William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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KERRY AND HAGEL, TOGETHER AGAIN! – 10:56 A.M. ET:  It's being reported from some sources this morning, unconfirmed, that Obama has indeed chosen John Kerry as secretary of state.  We're so moved.  Maybe the men he betrayed in his behavior during the Vietnam War will come to his confirmation hearings.  But Kerry will be easily confirmed.  He's apparently well-liked in the Senate, which is the usual standard, and may have even matured a bit.

Obama is also expected to name the unspeakable Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense.  That may arouse greater opposition, especially, ironically, in the Democratic Party, whose pro-Israel constituency is appalled by the nomination of a man contemptuous of the American-Israel relationship.  Indeed, Hagel is well outside the mainstream of both political parties, and, although he claims to be a Republican – one who's recently supported mostly Democratic candidates – he's on the left-wing fringe in defense- and foreign policy.

Some of Hagel's pathetic defenders say he'll be well-liked in the Pentagon because he served honorably in Vietnam.  What an insult to American soldiers.  They need a secretary of defense, not a nanny.

Bill Kristol takes a hard, negative look at the Hagel prospect:

Hagel certainly does have anti-Israel, pro-appeasement-of-Iran bona fides. While still a senator, Hagel said that “a military strike against Iran, a military option, is not a viable, feasible, responsible option.” Hagel, one of only two senators who voted in 2001 against renewing the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, also voted in 2007 against designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps a terrorist organization and opposed the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act.

Hagel also has a record of consistent hostility to Israel over the last decade. He boasted in 2008 that, unlike his peers, he wasn’t intimidated by “the Jewish lobby.” The next year, he signed a letter urging President Obama to open direct negotiations with Hamas. Later in 2009, he revisited another of his longstanding foreign policy fixations?—?his belief in the good intentions of the Assad regime?—?and told a J Street conference, “I believe there is a real possibility of a shift in Syria’s strategic thinking and policies. .  .  . Syria wants to talk?—?at the highest levels?—?and everything is on the table.”

Great strategic thinker, isn't he?  Has he ever been right on anything?

Democratic senators should have real concerns about confirming Hagel if President Obama is foolish enough to nominate him. There are, after all, plenty of Obama-supporting potential nominees for secretary of defense who are qualified for the job. Some have already served in the Defense Department in Obama’s first term, like Deputy Secretary Ash Carter and former undersecretary Michelle Flournoy. The Weekly Standard would expect to differ with such nominees on many issues. But they wouldn’t be out on the fringes like Chuck Hagel.

Why is President Obama tempted by the prospect of nominating Hagel? Because Hagel was a Republican senator. The Obama political types think they’d get credit for bipartisanship by appointing Hagel. And they think they would avoid a confirmation fight because Hagel’s former GOP colleagues wouldn’t dare oppose him: senatorial courtesy, party solidarity, and all that.

Whether Hagel is nominated is above all a test for President Obama. Is he serious about having Israel’s back? Is he serious about preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons?

And...

But a Hagel nomination is also a test for Republicans. Does senatorial clubbiness trump the good of the country? Do former party ties trump the importance of having a sensible and mainstream secretary of defense over the next four years?

The Weekly Standard salutes the Republican senators who stood up against the prospect of U.N. ambassador Susan Rice as our next secretary of state. But let’s be clear: Chuck Hagel would do far more damage at Defense than Rice would have done at State. To have blocked Rice and then roll over for Hagel would be a disgrace. It would even give some credence to the thesis that Rice fell victim to a kind of sexism and certainly to old-boy-network-ism. So, if President Obama goes ahead and advances what we might call a Hagelian thesis, Republicans have an obligation to embrace their role as Obama’s antithesis, and to block him.

COMMENT:  Right on.  Hagel's nomination would confirm our worst suspicions about Obama, as if they haven't already been concerned.  Kerry at State.  Hagel at Defense.  Who could ask for anything less?

December 15, 2012