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Hagel’s trial balloon reportedly has “popped,” but not for want of a natural constituency

Mike Allen of Politico said on Morning Joe today that the trial balloon for a Chuck Hagel nomination as Secretary of Defense “has been popped” and is “really losing a lot of altitude.” Allen attributed Hagel’s woes to the view that no “natural constituency” exists for a Hagel nomination.

Actually there is such a constituency. It consists of folks who dislike Israel; who want to keep U.S. and Israeli hands off of Iran; and who, more generally, strongly oppose, under nearly all circumstances except perhaps purely humanitarian ones, the use of U.S. ground forces in foreign conflicts.

I would argue that President Obama is part of that constituency, though he won’t say so. This would explain how Hagel became the frontrunner for the Pentagon job in the first place. The alternative explanation, that because Hagel was a Republican Senator he would be seen as a bipartisan selection, assumes a naivety that ill fits the Obama administration.

In any event, the Hagel constituency, even if it includes the president, is well outside the American mainstream. Couple that with Hagel’s anti-gay comment from the late 1990s, which he never repudiated until it resurfaced in connection with a possible cabinet post nomination, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Hagel’s trial balloon has indeed popped.

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