From Robert Wright, on the neocon opposition to Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense:
Some people say Obama will abandon Hagel because he’s too busy dealing with the fiscal cliff negotiations. The truth is that if he doesn’t stand by Hagel he’ll have a weaker hand in the fiscal cliff negotiations, because no one will take his threats seriously.
Personally, I’m agnostic on Hagel, just as I was agnostic about Susan Rice for secretary of state. But I’m also disgusted with the sniveling nature of the opposition to Hagel, just as I was to the smears against Rice. This makes me a Hagel fan despite myself.
If it were up to me, I’d choose a Democrat to lead the Defense Department. Obama has already had a Republican in that position, and I think it’s important for him to show that he believes there are plenty of well-qualified Democrats who can run DoD. But that’s hardly the most important thing in the world. What’s more important, at this point, is making up his mind and demonstrating that he won’t cave in every time the nutball right throws a tantrum.
Susan Rice was sui generis. Republicans were obviously on the warpath after their Benghazi freakout failed to deliver them the presidency, and Rice ended up being their scalp. I didn’t really blame Obama for testing the waters for a while to figure out just how serious the Republican opposition was. But he can’t do this twice. He either needs to nominate Hagel or nominate someone else, and he needs to do it now. He can’t leave two major nominees twisting in the wind like this and expect anyone to take him seriously in the future. It’s time to show some spine.