His nomination was already in trouble even before his hearing.
But Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel made things even worse at his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday – with several Gerald Ford “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe” moments.
President Ford famously made that ridiculous claim in a 1976 presidential debate. He never lived it down.
Likewise, Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, may rue some of the things he said Thursday – and may also regret some of his political stances taken long ago.
Worst among Hagel’s gaffes at the hearing: his absurd assertion that the tyrannical theocracy in Iran – the fruit of the violent 1979 Iranian revolution in which 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days, and sham elections ever since – is “an elected, legitimate government.”
Yes, and there was no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.
Other governments around the world may have, out of self-interest and a lack of scruples, recognized the regime in Tehran – but that doesn’t make it either duly elected or legitimate.
It’s unsophisticated, to put it diplomatically, to suggest otherwise.
Hagel also goofed by insisting, with regard to Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions, “I support the president’s strong position on containment.”
Someone had to slip Hagel a note informing him of his mistake; the administration’s official policy toward Iranian nuclear weapons is prevention, not containment. But even in correcting himself, Hagel blundered again – saying that, “I meant to say we don’t have a position on containment.” Democratic Sen. Carl Levin helped him out, stepping in to explain that, “We do have a position on containment, and that is we do not favor containment. I just wanted to clarify the clarify.”
Hagel also was confronted by past broadcast interviews he gave, “one of which showed him not challenging a caller who accused Israel of war crimes, another in which he appeared to agree with the assertion that America is ‘the world’s bully’,” as one news report put it.
Even liberals tweeted that Hagel was “making (B)iden look rhetorically sure-footed,” and that “This Hagel hearing is a disaster.”
Hagel also has shown past disregard for Israel, opposed sanctions on Iran and opposed the troop surge that proved to be the winning difference in Iraq – wrongly predicting it would be a “dangerous foreign policy blunder.”
Pressed on his opposition to the successful surge, Hagel repeatedly refused to say at the hearing if he was right or wrong.
“I’ll defer that judgment to history,” he told Sen. John McCain.
“I think history has already made a judgment about the surge, sir,” McCain said, “and you’re on the wrong side of it.”
So he’s been on the wrong side of history in one of the most important foreign policy choices this country has had to make in several decades; he can’t competently explain current policy toward the Iranian nuclear program; and he seems to think the jingoistic regime in Iran, which a few years ago killed its own people to remain in power, is a legitimate elected government.
We know President Obama wanted a trophy RINO – Republican In Name Only – for his Cabinet. But this nomination should never have been made, and neither should confirmation be forthcoming.