The interesting question is, why? Why waste the political capital? Why pass over more qualified candidates who would sail through confirmation, including Michele Flournoy — who'd be the first female Defense secretary?
The most ridiculous answer is among the mainstream media's favorites: bipartisanship. According to
What is particularly bizarre about this talking point is that it often appears in articles that go on to talk about how tough and grueling the nomination battle will be thanks to strong Republican opposition. So which is it? Is it a bridge across the partisan divide? Or is it an "in-your-face" nomination (South Carolina Sen.
At least from the perspective of nearly everyone on the right, it's the latter. Whether it's payback for the scuttled non-nomination of Susan Rice to be secretary of State or whether it's simply of a piece with Obama's efforts to divide and conquer the GOP that were on display throughout the "fiscal cliff" negotiations, the consensus in much of conservative Washington is that Obama is making this nomination at least in part out of spite.
Indeed, that's one major reason Hagel has so many unlikely friends these days. Hagel — never overburdened with too heavy a reputation for insight, knowledge or humility — is loathed, with ample justification, by many foreign-policy hawks,
And Hagel's views on Israel are, to be generous, hard to reconcile with those of the man who successfully campaigned for president just a couple of months ago as a staunch friend of that country. Even if Hagel's gaffe about the perfidious influence of the domestic "Jewish lobby" was accidental, his coolness to Israel is hard to dispute. For instance, when Palestinian suicide bombers were tearing the country apart in 2002, Hagel insisted in an OpEd article that this was the time for Israel to "take steps to show its commitment to peace."
For some, the thinking seems to be that if the Hagel nomination is a thumb in the eye of the neocon crowd, it must be worth it. David Greenberg writes in the New Republic that many "liberals are bending over backward to praise Hagel, in effect saying they would prefer an archconservative male mediocrity to a liberal female rising star." Why? Because punishing Hagel's enemies is worth a potentially lousy Defense secretary.
This spirit results in some really batty arguments for Hagel's confirmation. For instance,
The coming nomination fight will undoubtedly focus on the strength of the case against Hagel. But the real indictment of Obama's pick is the weakness of the case for Hagel — and the pettiness of the pick in the first place.