Even for controversial nominees, Senate confirmation hearings are usually a time to shine in the center of the media spotlight. In his confirmation hearing last week, Chuck Hagel didn’t look like a star under a spotlight: Hagel looked like a deer in the headlights.
Former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel went through a whole day of questioning in his quest to be the next Secretary of Defense by delivering fumbling, nearly incoherent remarks, flip-flopping on his long record of opposition to Israel and toughness against terrorists (including Iran) faster than a freshly-caught fish.
Hagel was so bad at responding to Senate Armed Services Committee members that, at times, Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mi) had to correct him. Questioned about Iran’s nuclear weapons program — and Obama’s policy — Hagel said, “I support the president’s strong position on containment.” But Obama has declared containment was not our policy. Obama’s policy has only succeeded in alienating Israel and encouraging Iran’s bellicosity. For those who may not remember, Obama’s 2008 campaign promised unconditional negotiations with Iran, which Iran rejected forcefully. Since then, Obama has mouthed decisiveness but has done nothing more than increasing economic sanctions which haven’t slowed, far less stopped, Iran’s march to the bomb.
Then Hagel was handed a note, which caused him to say that “we don’t have a position on containment,” at which point Levin threw him a life preserver saying, “Just to make sure your correction is clear, we do have a position on containment: which is that we do not favor containment.” It was so bad that an Obama aide told the New York Times that Hagel’s Iran wanderings were “somewhere between baffling and incomprehensible.”
His performance — on Israel, the Iraq surge, on the future strength of our military — was comprehensively awful. Having said that the “Jewish lobby” has intimidated many members of Congress, Hagel couldn’t name a single one who he believed had been intimidated. Having previously said that the Iraq surge was our biggest foreign policy mistake since Vietnam, Hagel refused to answer Sen. McCain’s question on whether the surge was a mistake or not. He abandoned his long-held beliefs so often many senators such as Texas’ Ted Cruz simply didn’t believe what he said.
No cabinet nominee in living memory has performed so badly in a confirmation hearing. Hagel, who has said that the Pentagon budget was “bloated” and needed to be cut, didn’t show much — really any — knowledge about how the budget was structured or how it stands after the $500 billion in cuts that have already been made or what the future effects will be of the sequestration of funds — which will happen next month — that will add another $600 billion in cuts over the next decade.
Hagel served in combat as a sergeant in Vietnam. But promoting Sergeant Hagel to Secretary of Defense will be the same as promoting a power-wrench wielding worker from the production line to CEO of Ford. He’s out of his depth and will serve as a tool of his president in dismantling the military.
Despite his awful performance, Hagel will be confirmed to succeed Leon Panetta as defense secretary. A sufficient number of Republicans have said that they won’t filibuster the nomination because they believe Hagel — a former member of their club — deserves a vote.
We can expect that Hagel will be an ideal Pentagon chief for Obama, not for what the nation needs. The nation needs a defense chief who will capture the best intelligence information and analyze it to determine what threats the Pentagon will have to deter or defeat in the next ten years. We need a defense secretary who would then, with the president, devise a strategy to accomplish that goal and then, from the strategy, derive a Pentagon budget in detail to answer those threats.
We need a defense chief like Caspar Weinberger or Donald Rumsfeld who is expert in defense analysis and budgeting, someone who could go to the president and tell him that we don’t have the means to accomplish the “Pacific shift” the president’s strategy requires or to provide the sea-based missile defense Obama promised Poland when he reneged on Bush’s promise of a land- based defense. Hagel isn’t that man. He’ll be Obama’s yes man at the Pentagon, a useful tool and nothing more.
Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey have fought long and hard against the sequestration cuts because they will result in a force so small and weak that our military will have to abandon some of the missions it is now expected to perform. Hagel won’t fight the cuts, he’ll embrace them. And he will embrace Obama’s politics for the Pentagon.
Hagel will push Obama’s “women in combat” policy and whatever expansion there can be of the policy that embraces the homosexual agenda. And Hagel will be at the forefront with the political waste Obama’s team has imposed on defense spending.
The next time Navy Secretary Ray Mabus wants to spend $427 per gallon on “green” fuel instead of buying diesel at $3.20 per gallon — as Mabus did with the Solazyme company — Hagel will encourage the waste. He will do what Obama wants him to do, reducing the force — and our nuclear capability — as much as his president wants.
In the hearing, Hagel said, “There are a lot of things I don’t know about. If confirmed, I intend to know a lot more than I do.” So who will be his tutors? President Obama, who will continue his efforts to reduce America from a superpower to an also-ran. Secretary of State Vichy John Kerry, who wants to focus on global warming and negotiations with Iran, and John Brennan, who has encouraged Obama to play whack-a-mole against terrorists in Libya, Uganda, and across Africa.
With tutors like those, Hagel won’t learn anything useful to defending America and its allies and interests abroad.
Under Leon Panetta, the military has had a rough four years. Under Hagel, it will only get worse.
The White House touts Hagel as the military equivalent of a “man of the people,” a former enlisted man who understands and relates to the troops as only one of them could. But Hagel doesn’t know any more about the troops than any other anti-war liberal. It’s not something he can learn on the job. What will Hagel do for the warriors who see political correctness ending their combat effectiveness?
It’s tempting to say that the troops should just quit, leaving the battlefield to the girls and the gays. But they shouldn’t, and it won’t be Hagel who can convince them of their duty in the politicized Obama military.
It’s up to the veteran warriors, those who fought in Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan, to stay, to outlast Obama’s decimation of our combat forces and the attempted destruction of the military culture that is essential to winning future wars. It is they, officers and enlisted men alike, who have to stay to train the young people coming in, to impart to them the values that the veterans hold most dear.
I remember what my dad told me and my roommate on the day we were commissioned as second lieutenants in the Air Force. Dad was a World War II mud Marine. He’d seen it all on Guadalcanal, Tarawa, and Iwo Jima. As graduation presents he gave each of us a Marine K-bar combat knife with this advice. “Right now, you two are highly-educated and motivated. But you’re two of the most useless people on earth. Find some guy with a lot of stripes on his sleeve and ask his advice every day. If you do what he suggests, every time he suggests it, you might survive and even do a good job.”
What do you tell a new brown bar if he can’t find that gunny or E-6 who’s been there and done that for twenty years? Chuck Hagel doesn’t know, and that’s why we need the veterans to stay. We can survive four years of Chuck Hagel if our warriors do their duty, staying on the job despite the chicken**** and the policies that would otherwise destroy the military culture by a thousand cuts.
It’s all up to you, gents. It’s your duty to stay and maintain the core force that can be restored when we need it. Your forbears did it between the World Wars, after Vietnam, and throughout our history. Now it’s your turn.