Watching the Chuck Hagel drama is a sobering reminder that Republicans still aren't very good at playing hardball politics. Their strategy is to use the Hagel nomination as soapbox to focus attention on a worthy, but unrelated, issue - namely the Benghazi debacle. The GOP Senate leadership doesn't think it has the votes to actually sink Hagel, even though many of them do have deep and legitimate concerns about his fitness for office. The Democrats hold a majority, and their partisan loyalty to Obama is rigid and absolute; as long as Obama insists on Hagel, they would not be much moved by video of the nominee dancing in the streets with Palestinians while rockets rained down on Israeli civilians, never mind intemperate comments about "Israeli apartheid" at college lectures.
The problem is that Republicans actually say all this in public, giving sound bites to hostile reporters. They're like a football team that broadcasts its locker-room strategy sessions before each quarter. John McCain went on "Meet the Press" last weekend and said, using almost these literal words, that Hagel's a lousy nominee, but he's my friend and a former Senate colleague and we know we can't stop him anyway, so we're going to drag this out just to give us some more time to yell about Benghazi. Then he yelled at David Gregory and asked why he doesn't care about the deaths of four brave Americans. And when Gregory asked exactly what he thinks Obama is covering up with regard to that bloody debacle, McCain muttered something about sending him a list of questions later.