I think it is time again to discuss Chuck Hagel. I’ve been reasonably positive about Obama’s nomination of Hagel for Secretary of Defense. My main problem is just that I don’t like the optics of it: Republican presidents always have Republicans at this post, but this will be Obama’s second of three who are Republicans. As Michael J.W. Stickings has asked, “Is no Democrat good enough?”
Unfortunately, I’m afraid that is the wrong question. The Secretary of Defense is nominated by the president you have, not the president you wish you had. This is who Obama is: a man dedicated to seeming more reasonable than anyone else. It is actually, one of his least admirable qualities. It speaks of a man who cares more about appearances than accomplishments. But I don’t doubt that this is who he is. From the start I thought he was a man with very centrist beliefs. If it were 40 years ago, he would certainly be a Republican.
By far, the best argument that I’ve heard in favor of Hagel comes from committed discontent Eric Alterman, Hooray for Hagel. I am in agreement with him. There is nothing that makes me want Hagel confirmed as much as the neoconservative push against him. The idea that Hagel will not be a lackey of Israel and won’t push for war with Iran makes him perhaps more compelling than most Democrats.
Alterman’s case is summed up well at the end:
What he’s getting at here is that the United States is a very pro-Israel country. But the neocons take this to another level—a level that is actually bad for Israel. And it is certainly not what American Jews, much less Americans generally, want.
So I say let’s go. It would have been nice if Obama had picked someone else, but he didn’t. And it is likely that Hagel is more liberal than any Democrat that Obama would have nominated. As Secretary of Defense, Hagel could do much good. So “Hooray for Hagel,” indeed.