He will probably be approved, but former Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel should not, in our opinion, be confirmed as Leon Panetta's successor as Secretary of Defense.
Hagel's controversial opinions on Israel and Iran aside (those are, after all, merely policy differences), his appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee could only be described, charitably, as clumsy.
Perhaps we've gotten spoiled. The outgoing Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, who was appointed by President Bush and asked to stay on by President Obama, has been one of the better secretaries in our memory. He has been forced to juggle two wars and a reduction in force at the same time, without any significant loss of national combat capability. His skills, and ability to think on his feet when meeting with foreign leaders (and more dangerously, members of Congress), have stood the United States well.
Hagel came with baggage, not the least of which were comments he made as a senator concerning Israel and Iran. In addition, many senators said that "he did not play well with others" as a senator and the animosity displayed during his confirmation hearings was a form of payback from senators whom he'd offended when he was on the other side of the table.
This does not bode well for his relations with Congress, which will be stressed by a further drawdown of forces to come (one in which only a good battler will be able to prevent Congress from leaving us back with a Carter-era hollow force).
Furthermore, he didn't seem capable of thinking on his feet, nor did he seem prepared for questions he should have known he was going to be asked.
It's not enough to be a noncommissioned Vietnam combat veteran. The Secretary of Defense has to be able to react quickly to changing circumstances, must be a top flight lobbyist and an excellent manager.
In general, presidents should get the people they want. But there's a reason the Senate is asked to "advise and consent" to the nominations, and this is one case where pulling the reins back may be a good idea.
-- Kelly Everitt