Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Bob Woodward said that “some [Democratic Senators] have actually called the White House and said, ‘Is Hagel going to withdraw? Will he consider withdrawing?’” My guess is that President Obama is committed to installing Hagel at the Pentagon, and isn’t going to back down as long as he believes Hagel can be confirmed. To the extent that some Democratic Senators have a problem with Hagel, they will have to overcome their gutlessness and break ranks with the administration this one time.
Meanwhile, John McCain, appearing on Meet The Press, said he is “confident that Senator Hagel will probably have the votes necessary to confirm him as secretary of defense” when the Senate returns from its week-long recess. McCain seemed to base this prediction on his own unwillingness to hold up the nomination, even though he opposes it.
Statements like McCain’s increase the odds against Democratic rank-breaking on Hagel and/or a change of heart by the White House. If confirmation is basically a done deal, then Senate Dems will be reluctant to torpedo it and Obama will not give up his hard-won victory. Perhaps most significantly, the pro-Israel advocacy groups that might be able to influence certain Senate Dems will continue to stay out of this fight, not wanting to alienate the next Secretary of Defense.
If, as McCain says, Hagel isn’t qualified to be Secretary of Defense, then McCain should get out of the punditry/posturing business and see if there is enough anti-Hagel momentum, such as the kind Woodward posits, to shake things up. But resisting those urges has always been beyond McCain.