Conservative world seems determined to vote down Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary

The former Nebraska senator became a hero of sorts among liberals in the aughts for his strong opposition to the Bush administration's adventures in Iraq. Hagel actually voted with the majority of his Senate colleagues to support the intervention in Iraq in 2002, but became a caustic critic as that war went south quickly, opposing the surge in troops in 2007. At that time, he called the Iraq war the worst foreign policy decision since Vietnam.

That and other comments Hagel made during the Bush era have caused many of his former GOP colleagues to criticize him in recent weeks as the Obama administration floated his name as a possible successor to Leon Panetta at Defense — comments such as referring to the "Jewish lobby" when talking about the influence that Israel has had with Washington lawmakers. He also alienated gays with his opposition to James Hormel in 1998, calling him "openly, aggressively gay," after Bill Clinton nominated the San Francisco philanthropist to be his ambassador to Luxembourg (Hagel apologized for that comment to Hormel last month). He now says he supports "open service" and is committed to LGBT military families.

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On CNN's State of the Union, GOP South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said Hagel was out of the mainstream of foreign policy opinion. He said he would be "antagonistic" toward Israel, referring to Hegel's comments about how Israel should negotiate with Hamas. "This is an in your face nomination by the president for those of us who are supportive towards Israel," Graham said.

On Fox News Sunday, Texas freshman GOP U.S. Senator Ted Cruz said Hagel's record on Israel was "troubling," saying he has consistently advocated "weakness" in respect to his comments on Iran. "I think weakness as Secretary of Defense invites conflict, because bullies don't respect weakness."

Cruz parroted the line trotted out by Lindsey Graham that President Obama's choice for Hegel shows that he doesn't give a damn about how it plays with conservatives, who have been quite vocal in expressing their discomfort with the nomination. "The president seems hell-bent on nominating him despite the fact that a number of prominent Republicans have criticized him, and the Democratic senators have been surprisingly silent on it. I think this is a president who has drunk the tea. He is feeling very good about himself. He is feeling like there can be no opposition to his position. So he doesn't seem terribly concerned that there's not a lot of support for Chuck Hagel."

On the panel discussion on Fox News Sunday, William Kristol said that it was a "mystery" as to why Obama wants to nominate Hagel, saying there are better qualified former legislators and better people inside the DOD. Kristol speculated that Obama likes Hegel because he agrees with Hagel's controversial comment about the "Jewish lobby" dominating Washington foreign policy.

Kristol says he believes most GOP senators will oppose Hagel's nomination, and thought Hegel could lose an up-or-down vote, which would be the first time that had happened to a Cabinet selection since the aforementioned John Tower some 24 years ago.

  • Chuck Hegel

Despite the fact that Washington D.C. has become incredibly polarized since the late 1980's, there hasn't been a Cabinet selection rejected by the U.S. Senate in 24 years.

In March of 1989, the U.S. Senate voted down George H.W. Bush's choice for Defense Secretary, former Texas Senator John Tower, by a 53-47 margin.

Other nominees have been withdrawn, however, when it appeared that their confirmation was going to be in serious trouble. Think about 1993, when Janet Reno became Bill Clinton's choice for Attorney General after his two selections, Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood, became embroiled in controversy over their employment of undocumented workers as nannies.

And even though he never put her name out for confirmation, we all witnessed what happened with Susan Rice in the weeks after the election, when Republicans used her as a pinata to attack the president regarding the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya in Benghazi. Though Rice was never officially nominated, she was rumored to be a serious contender. Instead, Obama named Massachusetts Senator John Kerry to the position, which some analysts say was a win for Republicans, as it now creates an opening that could see former Republican Senator Scott Brown retake the seat in a special election.

Now we have the situation with Chuck Hegel for Defense Secretary, who is expected to officially be nominated by President Obama on Monday.

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