The acrimony surrounding Chuck Hagel’s confirmation to lead the Defense Department has caused a handful of Senators to formally ask the White House to withdraw his nomination. The almost unprecedented step has capped weeks of debate over Hagel’s fitness for the job. In an effort led by TX Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), 11 GOP Senators have signed a letter asking the White House to drop Hagel’s nomination.
While other Senators are likely to add their names to the letter, the current 11 signers make a symbolic point. In the history of the office, no Defense Secretary has taken office with more than 11 votes against their nomination. In the last 50 years, no Secretary has taken office with more than three votes in opposition. Even if he limps to confirmation, Hagel is already a failed nominee.
The next Defense Secretary faces enormous challenges. In the facing of stubborn budget deficits, the Defense Department will have to accept broad spending cuts. As it makes these cuts, it must also contend with rising global tensions, including North Korea and Iran emerging as nuclear powers. Managing these will require a deft and steady hand.
Setting aside questions surrounding his views on the Middle East and American foreign policy, Chuck Hagel’s disastrous performance at his confirmation hearing cast doubts that he is up to the job. He seemed unprepared to answer his critics. Worse, he admitted that he didn’t have deep knowledge of America’s military, but assured Senators that he would learn on the job. Heading the Defense Department is not designed for on-the-job training.
If, as expected, Democrats are able to push Hagel to confirmation, he will enter the Pentagon with almost no political authority. Navigating the Pentagon bureaucracy and enacting the kinds of reforms needed to meet the new budget climate require a deep reservoir of political capital. With 40 or more votes against his nomination, Hagel will never have the necessary capital to achieve his mission.
With Hagel at the helm, America’s military will be rudderless.
As of this morning, signers of the letter include Sens. Cornyn, Inhofe, Graham, Wicker, Cruz, Vitter, Lee, Toomey, Rubio, Coats and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI).
UPDATE: Breitbart News has learned that four additional Senators have signed the letter. They are Sens. Coburn, Scott, Raisch and Barrasso. The letter was sent to the White House this morning.