I just watched a bit of Chuck Hagel’s confirmation hearings on TV and saw Senator John McCain in full, aggressive tone, attack mode. Why? John Avlon nails it in a CNN post offering reality checks for Hagel’s critics:
The final reality check relates to the conservative senators who have criticized their former colleague. In 2006, John McCain said he’d be “honored to have Chuck with me in any capacity. He’d make a great secretary of state.” But after Hagel was nominated by Obama, McCain questioned Hagel’s “overall attitude toward the United States and the world.”
Yes and that is how it has gone, hasn’t it? This kind of partisanship where assertions are….ahem…flexible (McCain veers on again, off again on this and has been mostly off again for the past few years) may please fans of Fox & Friends, Rush, Seah, and Mark, but even a head of lettuce on the shelf at the produce department at Safeway can see it for what it is. I suspect it won’t play well with a)independent voters and, more importantly, b)moderate voters (who gave Barack Obama lots of votes in the election and boosted him in a recent poll).
And, Avlon notes, McCain is not alone:
Republican leader Mitch McConnell also broadly praised Hagel as recently as 2009, saying, “Chuck has earned the respect of his colleagues and risen to national prominence as a clear voice on foreign policy and national security.” This generous perspective is unlikely to be recollected by conservatives during the confirmation hearings.
And here is where Avlon really hits the pundit bullseye:
Since his nomination, Hagel has been diligently working the corridors of Congress, trying to address concerns directly. He’s also met with leaders of organizations like the Anti-Defamation League and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to address the accusations behind closed doors.
Consider the attacks on Hagel against the backdrop of facts, with a sense of perspective. And then look at the staunch defenders of Hagel’s nomination: Republican Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell, Reagan’s respected Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci and the first President Bush’s national security adviser Brent Scowcroft.
The bottom line: Chuck Hagel is squarely in the Main Street Republican tradition. That he is being relentlessly attacked by some neoconservatives reflects how much their “you’re either with us or against us” attitude has strayed out of the historic mainstream.
Policy differences can and should be debated, but stooping to personal smears smacks of desperation. It is doubly ironic because Hagel’s appointment by a Democratic president is designed to help re-center American foreign policy, reminding us all of some forgotten Cold War era wisdom articulated by Republican Sen. Arthur Vandenberg during the Truman administration: “Partisan politics ought to end at the water’s edge.”
Some of today’s partisans seem to think partisan politics ends when the toilet has totally overflowed.