The Chuck Hagel Nomination: Obama plays divide and conquer

The nomination of Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense is, at first, a strange move by the president. Even Democrats are more than a little miffed about his past positions on Israel (to say nothing of the left’s concern for his comments on homosexuals – Jim Geraghty has the details).

From a political perspective, however, it makes perfect sense – if you realize it’s not just the American electorate on his mind.

Regarding the American voters, appointing a Republican with views not usually affiliated with the Republican Party is a move Democrats have played for decades (of course, Republicans have done it with disaffected Democrats as well). In this case it has the added bonus of angering the McCain-Graham faction of the party, and thus enabling the president to label even the most moderate Republicans as radical, turn-on-their-friend crazies. As for the Israel-friendly Democrats who are concerned about Hagel, I’m guessing the president thinks he can finesse that problem – and I can’t say he’s wrong.

The bigger recipient for this may be the Israeli electorate, who will elect a new Parliament in two weeks. At present, it appears all but certain that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be returned to office against a disorganized left (Reuters) and a new party that is eve further to his right (Reuters again). That said, Washington tends to think it has much more effect on Israeli voters than it actually does. The Hagel nomination may very well be an attempt by the Administration to shock Israeli voters away from Netanyahu.

There’s only one problem with that idea, since 1996, Israeli voters have paid little attention to Washington – and the first major Israeli leader to withstand Washington’s opprobrium was none other than Netanyahu himself.

More to the point, a Hagel appointment is a glaringly missed opportunity. With our allies in East Asia desperate for American leadership against the Chinese Communist Party – and an Administration that has at times even seemed eager to provide that leadership – the Pentagon appointment could have gone to someone focused on reorienting the military to a Pacific-centered enterprise. Instead, Hagel’s history shows he is more likely to follow conventional wisdom, which one had hoped the president had escaped regarding eastern Asia.

@deejaymcguire | | DJ’s posts

  • MD Russ

    I’m going to stick my neck out and predict that Hagel will not get confirmed. In fact, I would be surprised if he even gets a hearing before he does a Susan Rice and withdraws. He will find out that he just doesn’t have the votes on the Armed Services Committee to get reported out to the floor.

    • You may be right, but I hope you’re wrong.

      • MD Russ


        Just to be clear, I have nothing against Hagel and think that he would make a great SECDEF. As a minimum, I believe that he would reverse the Department’s trend under Panetta of breaking promises to our vets. For example, it took intervention by the House Armed Services Committee last fall to stop the DOD from doubling TRICARE premiums and co-pays every year for the next four years. I also believe that he would be far more concerned with the stress of constant deployments on our force structure and families.

        However, Hagel has shown that the Republicans are not always right and that occasionally the Democrats have a good idea. Such moral courage is not rewarded in Congress these days.

        • I’m not as cynical as you are, MD. I think Hagel will likely make it through, despite Republican opposition. The real question will be if the President can keep the Senate Democrats in line.

          • MD Russ


            To echo Craig, I hope you are right and I may be wrong. But this President has shown very little influence over the Congress since he jammed ObamaCare through and left the Democrats to slowly twist in the wind.

          • He just got his fiscal cliff deal, too.

          • MD Russ

            Now here we have to disagree, Brian. There was no fiscal cliff on January 1–more of a fiscal bunny slope. And Obama got nothing. The guys in the big boy pants on Capitol Hill, both D’s and R’s, played him like a fiddle. In the next 60 days he will have to reach a deal on the debt ceiling and on sequestration. And that is when the long knives will come out.

            When Obama started his run for the White House in 2007, my objection to him was not that he was born in Kenya or that he wants to convert America to a Socialist country. My objection was that he simply did not have the experience to be the Chief Executive. The President must have the gravitas to shape and guide the agenda of the Congress. With the exception of his squandering his landslide election capital on ObamaCare, he has failed miserably to lead. The future of our republic is in the hands of fiercely partisan Congressional leaders who are playing to win decisively, regardless of the consequences for the country. The supposed grown-up in the political process, the President, is distracted riding around on Air Force One and playing with his chu-chu trains.

            Gosh, that really sounds cynical. Yes, I am.

  • pinecone321

    Chuck Hagel is of the same mold as Vilsak and LaHood. They get to Washington, they get the power and the purse strings buried deep into their DNA, and they aren’t going to let go, even when they make it obvious they are opportunists rather than authentic legislators. If I understand it correctly, Hagel was going to be up against a hard re-election bid, so rather than lose, he retired. He was a supporter of the Iraq War, before he was against it. Wouldn’t a Vietnam veteran have some ideas or knowledge of war, and how it is fought and/or won or lost? Seems he went all John Kerry in being for it, before he was against it. Any explanations as to why? He went straight to Georgetown Univ., which likely only solidified his big government, big world positions. People can be bought off for far far less than a promise of a position as “distinguished professor” a lobbyist, or any of the other of the lucrative positions. Here’s a bit more on Hagel. Interesting to say the least.

    One worlder?

    • Your moniker of “pine cone” is apt. You don’t a friggin’ clue what you are talking about, and you don’t have a friggin’ clue who or what Chuck Hagel is, do you? Come on, admit it. If you did, you would not have written this pile of horse manure.

      • pinecone321

        I see we are not in agreement Mr. Kilby, and it’s not the first time, is it? The difference between you and I though is that I don’t have to resort to all but calling you an idiot, when it is so much more civil and politically correct to just use the descriptor “simpleton.” or perhaps “in denial.” I do my own research on nominees and/or candidates Craig, and I take off the rose colored glasses when I do so. I prefer to know the truth, not the opinions of others. I’ve noticed your list of positives about Hagel, and why you support him.

  • pinecone321

    I’m curious about an article I read in the last day or so claiming that our Naval Fleet is mostly, except for one battlegroup, all in dry dock for repairs. I know that there was talk about Obama and the Law of the Sea Treaty coming up at the UN. Since we are apparently not patrolling the high seas, in these most turbulent times, have we left wide open the passage lanes for the takeover by our enemies such as Russia and China and others? Would love your input on that D. J. McGuire. Has anyone followed Obama’s support for the Treaty, and if he may have signed that Treaty without authorization, or oversight from anyone. This is a sneaky little turd.

    • MD Russ


      Not only is the entire Navy in drydock, but the entire Army went home on blanket leave for Christmas, except for on MP company in Afghanistan, and now it appears that most of the soldiers will not be allowed to travel back to their units because of budget reductions. Meanwhile, deployed Marines have resorted to eating their prisoners to avoid starvation.

      Am I feeding you a load of preposterous bullshit? Of course I am, but you started it.

      • pinecone321

        Since you don’t seem to want to look into anything on your own, here is a good start-

        You can click through to for additional information on the AT article.

        • MD Russ


          Your links relate to the Law of the Sea Treaty which, while worthy of debate, doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in Hell of ever being ratified by the US Senate. I was responding to your rather ridiculous conspiracy theory that all of the US Navy, except for one battle group, is in “dry dock.” Do you have any idea how many ships there are in the Navy and what the aggregate shipyard capacity is?

          Like all conspiracy theories, this one takes convenient advantage of the fact that certain information is not available to the public for very good reasons that have nothing to do with evil-doing or nefarious cover-ups: the Navy does not provide to the public a complete list of which battle groups are deployed and what their current locations are. If you can’t figure out why that information is close-hold, then you are dumber than a box rocks.

          • MD Russ

            PS, pine,

            Be sure to let us know that next time you see black helicopters with UN markings flying around secret military bases in the US.

          • pinecone321

            You are delusional.

          • pinecone321

            Yup, I must be really so dumb to believe what is posted right on a US Navy site. How dare I believe them, and doubt you. How dumb can I be to not know that we can hide and disguise our Naval presence when deployed. Damn they really are shrinking the size of the Naval presence, all the way down to near invisibility. And you claim that I am engaging in conspiracy theories?

            Where are you even coming from when I originally posted-

            “I’m curious about an article I read in the last day or so claiming that
            our Naval Fleet is mostly, except for one battlegroup, all in dry dock
            for repairs.”

            Where are your facts to disprove what has been posted on a US Naval site? Oh, I guess I forgot about those submarines that are secretly deployed to continue the spread of HIV aids to the Africans.

            I take it that you are just having hissy fits because damn, they better pass those sequestration cuts, and the sooner the better. And don’t you dare give another dime to those damn Isralie Joooooos.

          • MD Russ

            Okay, pine. Let’s try this one more time. Please provide a link to a Navy site that reports that all but one battle group is in “dry dock.” And make sure that it is an official Navy site with a “” domain address and not some cockamamie conspiracy blog disguised as a Navy web site.

            Otherwise, I am going to invoke the MD Rule: never argue with an idiot.

          • pinecone321


            We currently have 10 supercarriers, or battlegroups.

            4 are in extended rehab, or dry docked.

            1 is currently home ported in Yokohama Japan.

            4 are dockside in the US. 2 in CA and 2 in VA.

            1 is currently deployed in the Arabian Sea.

            Another 2 supercarriers are under contract.

            Again, my original comment included the statement that I was “curious” about the info. in the AT article. I pointed out that it claimed that only one of our battlegroups was currently patrolling the high seas. I erred in saying that the other groups were “dry docked” when what I should have said was not currently deployed. My point is still accurate that wherever they are, their is only one currently on deployment. You grabbed right onto the “dry dock” error, and have proceeded to nit pick it to death, including telling me I am as dumb as a box of rocks, I am a conspiracy theory believer, and I am an idiot. You have not for the first moment even attempted to have any exchange except to attack, provide no factual information, have provided no links let alone credible ones, and have lowered yourself to progressive Alinsky ridicule tactics. Is that as good as it gets with you MD Russ?

            I call the MT rule on you-

            “Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”

            Have a nice life bro.

          • MD Russ

            I like you, pinecone. You remind me of my kid sister who is also young and stupid. And she can’t admit it when she is wrong, either. When you know the difference between an aircraft carrier being in home port and being in shipyard overhaul, then you might consider commenting on military affairs without embarrassing yourself. Until then, leave military affairs to those who understand the basics least you come off sounding like a tinfoil hat-wearing wacko.

            Sayonara, “bro.”

  • Hagel, aside from being decorated with two purple hearts from Vietnam, is fearless. He steps out in front of issues such as the housing debt bubble and others issues.. Perfect? No. But it seems Obama knew how to play this card better than most of us might want to admit.

    As for the antisemitism charge, that is pure BS. If Hagel is anti semitic, I and most Israeli jews are anti semitic. Sorry if that offends some.. hmm.. No I’m not

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.