It’s normal, I suppose, for conservatives to be sympathetic towards any public official who runs afoul of President Obama. But it’s abnormal to do a 180 degree turn about the merits of such an official.
John McCain, though, has executed a full 180 with respect to Chuck Hagel. Today, McCain defended the ousted Secretary of Defense. In response to White House leaks that Hagel was performing poorly, stated, “Believe me, he was up for the job.” But during Hagel’s confirmation fight, McCain said of his old friend, “He will be confirmed. . .I don’t believe he is qualified.”
Apparently, Hagel saw the writing on the wall. Last week, according to McCain, he expressed his frustration to the Senator over the administration’s failure to confront the turmoil that is engulfing important chunks of the world.
But Hagel accepted the Secretary of Defense position with the understanding that under Obama the United States would be in “come home” (i.e., retreat) mode. Indeed, Hagel had been advocating retreat for years. As Daniel Foster correctly noted at the time of Hagel’s nomination, the former Nebraska Senator’s foreign-policy and defense views were clearly to the left of the ones Obama articulated during his first term (though not to the left of Obama’s real views).
It is odd, then, that Hagel would be frustrated by Obama’s lack of assertiveness. By re-entering the Iraq fray — however tepidly — Obama has actually been more assertive than Hagel had any right to expect from his boss.
Perhaps Hagel has seen the light and now understands that, his years of obnoxious wrong-headed rhetoric notwithstanding, the world is a dangerous place from which American should not retreat. If he has, his failure to recognize reality until recently still should disqualify him from further service as Secretary of Defense.
Nor should Hagel be given credit for his statement that ISIS is an “imminent threat to every interest we have” and is “beyond anything we’ve seen.” Hagel said so in late August of this year. I’ve seen no indication that Hagel appreciated the threat posed by ISIS when it first became obvious, i.e., no later than early 2014.
Hagel’s August remark about the great threat posed by ISIS has been juxtaposed with Obama’s comparison of ISIS to “the jayvee team.” But this comparison appeared in a Januray 2014 issue of the New Yorker. Obama’s comment was moronic, but there is no reason to think that Hagel viewed it as such at the time.
John McCain’s attempt to portray Chuck Hagel as a victim won’t wash. Hagel was lucky to have been elevated to Secretary of Defense. The rest of us are lucky that he soon will be leaving that job.