Who said confirmation hearings are snooze fests?
I did, as a matter of fact. John Kerry’s hearing for secretary of state, that is. I almost missed it earlier this week. Havin’ breakfast at the time.
But the hearings that went on yesterday in the Senate Armed Forces Committee were fascinating. Chuck Hagel, who, with his sad, puffy eyes, could star in a Shakespearean tragedy, seemed a tad sadder yesterday as he faced down his opponents and former colleagues.
What do you say, Senator, about your past remark condemning Israel for “keeping Palestinians caged up like animals”?
“If I had an opportunity to edit that,” Hagel responded, “like many things I’ve said, I would like to go back and change the words and the meaning.”
What about your 2006 description of an Israeli military action in Gaza as a “sickening slaughter,” shouldn’t you then prosecute Israel for war crimes?
“No, it depends on — they were attacked, it depends on many factors,” Hagel offered. “If Israel was defending itself, there was slaughter was going on, on both sides.”
Aha, both sides killing each other. That region is too much.
What about your comments criticizing the Iraqi surge in 2007? It turned out to be a success.
“I’m not going to give you a yes or no,” Hagel said. “I’ll defer that judgment to history.”
“History has already made a judgment on the surge, and you’re on the wrong side of it,” Sen. John McCain retorted.
Senator, isn’t it anti-Semitic to refer to a “Jewish lobby” “intimidating” U.S. senators in support of Israel?
“Name one person in your opinion who is intimidated by the Israeli lobby in the United States Senate?” Sen. Lindsey Graham challenged Sadface.
“I didn’t have in mind a specific person,” Hagel said.
Could you name one instance when the Senate has done anything under pressure from the “pro-Israel lobby”?
“I cannot give you an example,” Hagel said.
So how has this lobby “intimated” legislators, Senator?
“I should have used another term,” Hagel said. “I’m sorry.”
Senator, as you know, your policy on Iran has been pretty consistent before you ran for Pentagon boss — you believe they won’t build a nuclear bomb and that they threaten nobody. Your recent comments that you support sanctions befuddle that message.
“I support the president’s strong position on containment,” Hagel said.
Containment? You think Iran can be contained like the Soviet Union?
“I’ve just been handed a note that I misspoke and said I supported the president’s position on ‘containment,’” he said a few minutes later. “If I said that, I meant to say that obviously — his position on containment — we don’t have a position on containment.”
“I’ve had more attention paid to my words in the last eight weeks than I ever thought possible,” he added gamely.
There’s no doubt about it — Chuck Hagel went into the hearings with a strong headwind, and came out worse for the wear.
So what should the Republicans do? Confirm him, in my opinion.
President Obama’s second term goal is becoming clear: to destroy the GOP by forcing them to vote against their conscience. To get their base angry at them. That will keep conservatives home in 2014, allowing Obama to regain the House and a filibuster-proof Senate. A compliant Congress. Just like in 2009.
He has already made progress in his mission when Republicans voted last month to raise tax rates on the highest earners. He now wants to do the same with immigration reform.
Republicans look at any legalization of 11 million illegals as a death knell for their party. Eleven million illegals turns into 11 million voters. This, after the difference between Obama and Romney was just 3 million votes. And 70 percent of Hispanics vote Democrat.
I understand the GOP urge to just “get immigration out of the way so that we could start getting the Hispanics to love us.” But green cards are not what Hispanics want — they’ve pocketed that from both parties on Nov. 7. The vast majority of those here illegally are low income. What they want are the “gifts” promised by Obama — two-year unemployment benefits, mass extensions of entitlement programs, the works.
Hispanics won’t vote based on who gets the DREAM Act through. They may not have been here that long but they’ve quickly realized how to achieve the real American dream, conjured up by Romney’s famous 47 percent.
Obama himself does not want any immigration bill to pass. Wednesday’s bipartisan “Gang of 8” presser is a threat to his hopes for 2014 — which is why he is already trying to derail the bill by insisting that immoral legislation be inserted.
By nominating Hagel, a one-time Republican senator who made a living thumbing his nose at his party, Obama is throwing his third potch at the GOP. The only way they could stop him is by filibuster. And which senator is going to make that choice against a former colleague of theirs?
Hagel has no real experience leading anything — his life consists of soldiering in Vietnam and then running for office many times. The beauty of his nomination lies in his shilling for the president. Setting up a nomination fight plays into that.
So I recommend confirming Hagel — and focus on the real race, in 2014.