“One can’t doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed. .. Our mission has failed…” – William F. Buckley
“You’re on the wrong side of it, and your refusal to answer whether you were right or wrong on it is going to have an impact on my judgment on whether to vote for your confirmation.” – Senator John McCain
CHUCK HAGEL answered the question on Iraq correctly by not taking McCain’s bait. Of course it cost him, which was the point, so Hagel just took what came next. Hagel’s got real problems, some of which seem to stem from not doing a sufficient enough prep round that had friends firing word bombs at him like Obama’s team had to know the Republicans would do.
Steve Clemons blogged the entire hearing, with Hagel coming out on top.
Of course, the real problem is that anyone who bucks McCain on war becomes his enemy. That Chuck Hagel was right about Iraq being a bad war, while opposing President Bush bothers McCain, too.
Hagel also stole McCain’s independent status and now has some chance, though today was ugly, of being Secretary of Defense, while McCain is forever stuck in the Senate; though that’s only because Sarah Palin came to his rescue against a Tea Party candidate that threatened to rip him from his political pedestal.
It’s been a rough decade of decline for John.
Their exchange is below…
William F. Buckley would have been on Hagel’s side today, because the problem with the surge in Iraq is that the war itself, from the fake WMD case for the war to Abu Ghraib, was the worst foreign policy disaster in U.S. history. Senator McCain seems to still be making the ridiculous case that the surge in a war that failed, even on Buckley’s terms, somehow worked or was a “success.”
Times have changed McCain from a party-bucking, bipartisan-minded senator to a hard-line conservative and hawk. Hagel has evolved less, if at all. The men drifted apart over foreign policy, associates say. They point to the fact that McCain, famously opinionated and stubborn, has especially little patience for people he believes waver on war.
The Shakespearian encounter between McCain and Hagel is emblematic of Washington, where shallow friendships, intense polarization, and rampant hypocrisy flourish. It was all on display Thursday as Hagel dodged and stumbled over attempts by Republicans to hold him accountable for past statements on Iraq, Israel, Syria, and other trouble spots.
McCain is angry that Hagel opposed the “surge” of forces in Iraq under President Bush.
McCain’s insistence that the surge in Iraq under Bush was a “success” is the strangest and most illegitimate argument that can be made. Looking at Iraq today it falls in on itself immediately, unless your goal is to attack Chuck Hagel in order to get even. Or if you’re Sean Hannity who believes we should stay in countries forever, which is basically McCain’s strategy behind all wars. Get in. Stay in.
Listening or watching Hagel while Republican senators disgraced themselves on the subject of Israel, firing rhetorical bombs at President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, any fair person would have thought it was simply another opportunity to go at Obama using Hagel’s comments about the Israeli lobby to do it. That Hagel voted to fund everything Israel has ever needed when he was a senator wasn’t good enough for the Republicans. Anyone who could argue that AIPAC and their conservative media friends haven’t had an impact in Congress and on U.S. policy is either an ignoramus on foreign policy or bought off. Look at what J-Street has had to go through to become a viable force and all who opposed their rise.
John McCain is a vindictive man with way too much power, standing on a reputation that he long ago sullied by selling his soul to George W. Bush in the hopes of becoming president. Luckily for us all the American people were too smart to fall for it.
The exchange between Hagel and McCain was one of friends now turned bitter adversaries, based on the fact that Mr. Hagel won’t endorse war without end, something that has been John McCain’s only card to play in a career where he simply doesn’t know anything about anything else.