Chuck Hagel’s testimony during his Senate confirmation hearing consisted of one misadventure after another. For example, he described the Iranian regime as “legitmate” and characterized American’s policy toward Iran as “containment.” In both cases, he likely was reflecting the real view and actual policy of the Obama administration. But he wasn’t supposed to let the cat out of the bag. He thus embarrassed both Team Obama and himself.
One might have expected better from Hagel in the less adversarial setting of a conference before military personnel. But, as this report from Dana Milbank shows, Hagel was unable to avoid talking nonsense even in that setting.
With the “gaffe patrol on high alert” (Milbank’s words), Hagel stuck closely to his prepared script. According to Milbank, he “read so closely, stealing only furtive glances at the audience, that he looked like a novice swimmer gasping for air between strokes.”
But, inevitably, things got interesting during the Q&A. Asked about China, Hagel opined that “the Chinese have shown their leadership to be steady, wise, and careful.” Putting Hagel’s fractured syntax (the Chinese don’t get to show their leadership much of anything) to one side, it’s unfortunate that our Secretary of Defense finds wisdom in a regime as horribly repressive as China’s.
As for Egypt, Hagel had this to say:
If we would not have had the strong military-to-military relationship with Egypt, I’m not sure things would have turned out the same in Egypt over the last two years.
If that’s true, then Hagel has made a great case for not having a strong military-to-military relationship with Egypt.
Gaffes are one thing, blissful ignorance is another. Hagel appears to be blissfully ignorant about the situation in Egypt, in China, and in Iran. And, frankly, I doubt he knows much about the situation at the Pentagon, either.