Since he was re-elected, President Obama has been the target of one strident Republican challenge after another, as if the president’s success with the voters has infuriated the more conservative members of the opposition.
The newest of these challenges is the opposition being voiced to Obama’s nomination of former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel — himself a Republican — to be secretary of defense. Some members of the GOP cannot forgive Hagel for having pointed out fallacies connected to the American war in Iraq and for having spoken too sharply for their tastes about the tremendous influence Israel’s supporters wield in Washington.
Among the more articulate of Hagel’s detractors is William Kristol, who was a leading advocate of President George W. Bush’s decision to wage war in Iraq. The editor of the influential right-wing journal, The Weekly Standard, Kristol said the former senator and his supporters have succumbed to “neoconservative derangement syndrome.”
Kristol explained that he and those who share his concerns are more concerned about Hagel’s Senate votes against sanctions and his generally “overcautious attitudes” about military action against Iran as well as his approach to Israel than they were about his positions on Iraq, although he cited Hagel’s opposition to the American troop surge that has since been generally regarded as successful.
But, to the American public, who carries more weight in this argument: the highly partisan neoconservative pundit or the widely respected former secretary of state, Colin Powell, who endorsed Hagel’s nomination? The public, given such a choice, would no doubt pay more heed to Powell.
“I think he gets confirmed,” Powell predicted on NBC’s “Meet The Press” Sunday. “I think he’s ultimately superbly qualified, based on his overall record, based on his service to the country, based on how he feels about troops and veterans and families. I think he will do a great job as secretary of defense.” We agree.
Powell endorsed Hagel as soon as Obama announced his nomination and he scorned those senators who object to the nominee’s track record.
“There are people who are very supportive of the state of Israel. I’m very supportive of the state of Israel. So is Senator Hagel, and you’ll see that in the confirmation hearings, but it doesn’t mean you have to agree with every single position that the Israeli government takes,” Powell declared.
That, more than Kristol’s stridency and the similar criticisms of several conservative politicians, appears to conform with reality and, not unimportantly, with the sentiments of those Americans who don’t bear a grudge against a president whose re-election has seemingly caused his foes to wring their hands and fault almost every move he’s made since the votes were counted.
“This is the neocons’ worst nightmare because you’ve got a combat soldier, successful businessman and senator who actually thinks there may be other ways to resolve some questions other than force,” Richard L. Armitage, who was Powell’s deputy secretary of state, said of Hagel’s nomination.
The nominee’s former close friend in the Senate, John McCain (R-Ariz.), said on CBS News’ “Face The Nation” Sunday that there are “legitimate questions” that need to be asked of Hagel. Fair enough. No nominee can expect to be confirmed without questions from those concerned about his or her fitness.
But with this nomination, as for Obama’s initial choice for secretary of state (Susan Rice, who withdrew because her foes were so determined to block her nomination), the opposition appears far more pointed and politically motivated than is usually the case.
The president and the American people deserve better.