The Hagel hearing, Part Two (Sen. Sessions takes Hagel to the woodshed)

With Sen. McCain having ripped into Hagel (see post below), Sen. Nelson of Florida tries to give Hagel a breather by asking him about his service in Vietnam. But Hagel, clearly stung by the exchange with McCain, wants to talk about the Iraq surge (the issue he ducked when McCain asked about it).

So Hagel uses the Vietnam question to return to the surge. His view of the surge, Hagel says, was informed by the suffering he observed when fighting in Vietnam, during which he was wounded (in ways he declines to specify). In other words, Hagel essentially admits that his experience in Vietnam scarred him to the point that it caused him to oppose the surge. He isn’t consumed by his Vietnam experience, Hagel insists, but “it’s part of me.”

He’s rambling here and repeating himself. And he still hasn’t answered McCain’s question as to whether Hagel was right about the surge.

Now, Jeff Sessions is pressing Hagel on a report he helped produce (for an outfit called Global Zero) calling for major cutbacks in the U.S. nuclear arsenal — eliminating all tactical nuclear weapons, for example. This would be a huge change in our nuclear posture, Sessions rightly notes. He also points out that key leaders of our military disagree strongly with Hagel’s report.

Hagel tries to wiggle out of this by saying that his report didn’t “propose” anything — it was just “illustrative.” He tries to invoke Reagan, who proposed huge cuts in nukes, and insists that the cuts he’s talking about would be bilateral.

Sessions nails Hagel here, showing his response to have been misleading at best. He quotes from Hagel’s report, which says that, although bilateral cuts in nukes would be preferable, the U.S. should consider making the cuts unilaterally.

This isn’t Ronald Reagan; more like Neville Chamberlain.

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