When a public official departs a job prematurely, it's never easy to pin down the truth about why it is happening -- although if the excuse is "wanting to spend more time with my family," it is safe to assume the impetus for the departure involves a hooker, sex in a bathroom stall or a soon-to-be-revealed secret stash of money.
None of those embarrassing elements is the cause of Hagel being cast adrift. This looks like a fairly classic case of a Cabinet secretary being shut out of the inner circle and finally figuring out it is time to go.
Gleaning a probable scenario from the most informed first-day reporting, it appears that Hagel initiated a status-of-job discussion with the president several weeks ago. A mutual decision was reached that it would be best to part ways. Most observers are saying Hagel’s exit was a foregone conclusion because, as one
In his formal announcement of the news, with Hagel standing at his side, the president said he highly appreciated the Defense secretary's willingness to give him straight talk. So, what was not appreciated? Apparently, several things.
Hagel got a bad start in his confirmation hearings two years ago, giving awkward testimony that allowed Republican opponents of the administration to drag out the process. Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, ended up winning approval with only four of his ex-
Hagel’s lack of public eloquence continued as he underperformed as a spokesman for administration policies. Over time, Gen.
Obama brought Hagel in as his third Defense secretary to help cut the military budget and bring troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan. Now that there has been an about-face, with troops trickling back to Iraq to fight the Islamic State and a mini-troop-surge in the works for Afghanistan, Hagel no longer seems to be the right guy for the job.
Underlying all of this, though, seems to be the tendency of this administration to keep all the big decisions on foreign policy in the hands of a tiny circle inside the
One foreign policy expert told NBC news that Hagel "had a crappy relationship with Susan Rice." Hagel surely did not help that relationship by being a private critic of the administration's internally dissonant strategy in Syria and Iraq (some of that straight talk the president claimed to value), because Rice is a key architect of that strategy.
Obama seems strongly inclined to rely on just a small group of advisors whom he knows well and can trust not to split off to write tell-all memoirs. That may be understandable, but it may not be wise. A president needs to hear dissent and consider alternative options. President