David Brooks argues that President Obama selected Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense because he wants Hagel to supervise the beginning of a generation-long process of defense cutbacks. The theory is that such cutbacks will go down better with a Republican, and a war hero, at the Pentagon to provide political cover.
Brooks may be right, but I doubt it. During Hagel’s “trial balloon” period, it became clear that Hagel will struggle mightily for Republican support.
How much political cover will Hagel bring if he is confirmed with virtually no Republican votes? And why would Obama believe his defense cuts will go down better with a Secretary of Defense who, because of his unpopularity, probably will be the constant target of sniping once installed?