On January 31, 2013, former Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) was questioned at his senate hearing as President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense. The hearing proved interesting — not because watching senators take yet another of the president’s nominees and grill him like cheese is so fascinating — but, rather, because it’s more apparent than ever that these hearings are often nothing more than an opportunity for senators who seek to remain relevant to display their ruffled feathers.
Perpetually cranky Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) pressed Hagel about the 2007 Iraq war surge. When McCain figuratively poked his fingers at Chuck Hagel and repeatedly demanded a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, it became clear that in McCain’s game of one-upsmanship, he was attempting to distill the answer to a very complex question into a monosyllable. Asking a question in that manner begs the question: is John McCain aware of the layers of complexity within the very issues about which he’s asking questions? History has repeatedly said ‘NO!’
For all of his flaws in supporting the Iraq war initially, Hagel gave a rational and nuanced reply; he refused to answer yes or no and instead responded that while the surge assisted in the overall objective, it distracted from focusing much-needed attention on Afghanistan. We neglected military operations and intelligence investigations in Afghanistan in favour of continuing to focus on Iraq. With this answer, Hagel proved that he, unlike McCain, can be thoughtful and that he is not simply a knee-jerk war hawk — and being a hawk is precisely the answer that McCain and the Republicans were looking for.
In an interview on Current TV, David Sirota said, “[Hagel] is perceived as such a threat to the idea of what the Republicans have stood for. Here you have a guy who’s saying a lot of the things that Democrats have said, a lot of things frankly that progressives have said … and the problem for Republicans is that he’s a Republican voice saying those things. He is arguably a bigger threat to the Republican brand than any Democrat could be.” Sirota hit the nail on the head.
Let’s leave aside for a moment the fact that John McCain appears to be holding a grudge against his “friend,” Hagel, for siding with President Obama on an important issue during the 2008 election that John McCain handily lost — but let’s remember that in 2000 when John McCain ran for president he was asked whom would he choose to be his Secretary of Defense, and he chose none other than Chuck Hagel. Now that the president has chosen the same man, McCain is opposing the president’s choice. If Hagel was so wrong why was he McCain’s choice? Talk about holding a grudge.
Maybe there are other reasons that McCain is so adamantly opposed to Hagel’s nomination. After all, Hagel has said, “The best Army does not mean the largest. We must have the Army be appropriately sized for the contingencies we deem likely, and it also must be trained and modernized.” Hagel has been clear that sizeable cuts to the military budget could be devastating in that “[Sequestration] would harm military readiness and disrupt each and every investment program…” and “Based on my assessment to date, I share [current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s] concerns. I urge the Congress to eliminate the sequester threat permanently and pass a balanced deficit-reduction plan.” With statements that clearly support a strong defense but do not support either rampant spending or a ‘fight first, ask questions later’ view, it’s clear that Hagel has fallen on the wrong side of the senate’s war hawks who still maintain outdated views of the world and its cultures.
Whether or not Chuck Hagel is the appropriate choice for defense secretary has almost become a side issue at this time; many of us have come to expect the constant obstruction of all of the president’s decisions. But at this point, McCain should be glad that nobody has been demanding answers from him on his many questionable decisions. If it were up to McCain and his ilk, the nation would be in a constant state of war; he has been wrong about every war since Vietnam and numerous foreign policy decisions since, and he’s been wrong about regimes in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt as well, even as he seems to be pushing for involvement in Syria.
It’s time for this ill-tempered, grumpy man to go. The nation can’t afford any more reactionary war hawks in positions of power.
With all due respect, does John McCain still have credibility on any issue? Two word answer: Sarah Palin.