By Winslow T. Wheeler, Center for Defense Information at the Project on Government Oversight (POGO)
However, the Democrats stride as giants compared to the Republicans, with the possible exception of Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who are relentless in their cheap shots to justify their predetermined hostility to Hagel. Particularly offensive are Senator John McCain's insistence that the witness pay homage to McCain's dogma on the sanctity of the "surge" as rescuing America from ignominy in Iraq (which it did not) and Senator Inhofe's bumbling small mindedness as he introduced himself to the nation as the leading Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. If this is the best the Republicans can do to explain themselves to the country on national security issues, their domicile in America's political wilderness has a long way to go before it is over.
How ironic that Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) should use intimidation to corner the cowering Hagel into professing he could think of no senator that was intimidated by the Israel lobby. Having seen that sort of intimidation for decades as a Senate staffer (both from senators and lobbyists), it was a sad moment indeed in the annals of the Senate to see a witness not stand up to the tawdry tactics; a historic moment for pride as a citizen it was surely not.
The committee has recessed for a flurry of votes in the Senate; it will resume for a second round of questions. One can only hope that Hagel can show the mettle to extract decent and intelligent behavior from the senators on the committee from his own party in the next round, but that hope is clearly a stretch.
Wheeler is director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO).