Hagel Delay: Conservative New Media Victory
The successful effort by Republicans to rally in opposition to the confirmation of Chuck Hagel, blocking the Senate from closing debate with a successful filibuster Thursday afternoon, represents a significant victory for conservative new media, which continued vetting the former Republican Senator long after the mainstream media had declared his success a virtual certainty despite a disastrous confirmation hearing on Jan. 31.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who had previously opposed a filibuster against Hagel, indicated in Tuesday's meeting of the Senate Armed Services Committee that the emergence of two previously undisclosed speeches, both within the five-year timeframe of the committee's request to Hagel, were cause for concern. Breitbart News and Fox News reported on the existence of the two speeches, both from 2008, on Monday, Feb. 11. Questions arose not only about the substance of the speeches, but also the fact that Hagel had failed to report them.
On Thursday morning, the Washington Free Beacon reported a speech by Hagel in 2007 at which he allegedly claimed that Israel controlled the U.S. State Department: "The State Department has become adjunct to the Israeli Foreign Minister's office," Hagel reportedly said. Video of the speech has not yet been found, nor any transcript of questions and answers, but a published copy of Hagel's prepared remarks indicated that he had called for the opening of a new U.S. consulate in Tehran, despite Iran's continued defiance and belligerence.
After the cloture vote failed on Thursday afternoon, it was clear that continued concern about Hagel's public statements and disclosure thereof had been one of the main rallying points for Republicans who voted no.
As David Gregory of NBC reported:
Many pro-Israel organizations, fearful of defeat, kept their distance from the Hagel nomination fight. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was particularly noteworthy for its silence. Other groups were more active: the Republican Jewish Committee rallied Republican Senators, and Christians United for Israel (CUFI) lobbied every single Senate office. Individual Senators, Ted Cruz (R-TX) in particular, stood out. The Emergency Committee for Israel, a 501(c)4 organization, produced web ads and social media campaigns.
Throughout, conservative media played a key role in doing the research that the mainstream media would not, providing the basis for a full examination of Hagel's record and his beliefs. That effort continues--and will have several additional days in which to unfold.
Meanwhile, a White House whose nominee to lead the Pentagon has been critically damaged--by his own clumsy performance and non-disclosures--will have time to reassess.
There are other candidates for the post with past service during the Obama administration who would be confirmed easily by the Senate--most notably Michèle Flournoy, former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy.