Containing Hagel

Mark Steyn’s weekly column is posted at NRO as “Containing Hagel.” Subhead: “Tehran is pleased that we aren’t.” Steyn does the Steynian thing with Hagel’s almost unbelievable performance before the Senate Armed Services Committee this week. Among other things, Mark rescues a few of Hagel’s quotable quotes before they are overlooked by Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations and recede into the mists of the Age of Obama.

Iran figured prominently in Hagel’s mysterious misspeaking:

He warmed up with a little light “misspeaking” on Iran. “I support the president’s strong position on containment,” he declared.

But not for long:

“I was just handed a note that I misspoke, that I said I supported the president’s position on containment [of Iran]. If I said that, I meant to say that we don’t have a position on containment.”

This clarification required the intercession of Senator Carl Levin as a sort of deux ex machina to rescue the protagonist. Then Senator Gillibrand descended to lend a hand:

After he’d hailed Iran’s “elected, legitimate government,” it fell to another Democrat, Kirsten Gillibrand, to prompt Hagel to walk it back. Okay, delete “elected” and “legitimate”:

“What I meant to say, should have said, is that it’s recognizable.”

Getting closer all the time! Here Steyn gives credit where credit is due:

“I don’t understand Iranian politics,” he announced in perhaps his least misspoken statement of the day. But the Iranians understand ours, which is why, in an amusing touch, the foreign ministry in Tehran has enthusiastically endorsed Hagel.

More material for the editors of Bartlett’s, not that they have the wit to use it:

“There are a lot of things I don’t know about,” said Hagel. “If confirmed, I intend to know a lot more than I do.”

“I intend to know a lot more than I do.” Is it too late make it the motto of Faber College?

You can really appreciate this too, so long as you don’t have to worry about the Secretary of Defense having any responsibility for the national security of the United States:

He then denied that “I will be running anything.” Don’t let the fact that the secretary of defense presides over 40 percent of the entire planet’s military spending confuse you. He’s not really “running” a thing — or, as he was anxious to assure us, “I won’t be in a policy-making position.”

The transcript verifies that Hagel actually said this without any Obama administration staffer passing him a note to clarify his testimony:

Late in the day, after five o’clock, he pronounced definitively: “It doesn’t matter what I think.”

If only.