William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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CHUCKY – AT 9:40 A.M. ET:  We've argued here against the anticipated selection of Chuck Hagel as defense secretary.  Our arguments have centered on his strange policy positions.  As the Washington Post said in its editorial opposing his nomination, Hagel is actually to the left of Obama on many defense issues. 

But now we find there are other, equally disturbing factors that disqualify Hagel.  Some critics are zeroing in on his lack of management skills, and his chaotic handling of his office when he was in the U.S. Senate, representing Nebraska.  From the Washington Free Beacon:

Hagel has drawn additional heat from insiders who claim he lacks the credentials needed to manage a department as large and essential as the Pentagon.

“Yes, Hagel has crazy positions on several key issues. Yes, Hagel has said things that are borderline anti-Semitism. Yes, Hagel wants to gut the Pentagon’s budget. But above all, he’s not a nice person and he’s bad to his staff,” said a senior Republican Senate aide who has close ties to former Hagel staffers.

“Hagel was known for turning over staff every few weeks—within a year’s time he could have an entirely new office because nobody wanted to work for him,” said the source. “You have to wonder how a man who couldn’t run a Senate office is going to be able to run an entire bureaucracy.”

Others familiar with Hagel’s 12-year tenure in the Senate said he routinely intimidated staff and experienced frequent turnover.

“Chuck Hagel may have been collegial to his Senate colleagues but he was the Cornhusker wears Prada to his staff, some of whom describe their former boss as perhaps the most paranoid and abusive in the Senate, one who would rifle through staffers desks and berate them for imagined disloyalty,” said Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser on Iran and Iraq. “He might get away with that when it comes to staffers in their 20s, but that sort of personality is going to go over like a ton of bricks at the Pentagon.”

Multiple sources corroborated this view of Hagel.

“As a manager, he was angry, accusatory, petulant,” said one source familiar with his work on Capitol Hill. “He couldn’t keep his staff.”

“I remember him accusing one of his staffers of being ‘f—ing stupid’ to his face,” recalled the source who added that Hagel typically surrounded himself with those “who basically hate Republicans.”

Sources expressed concern about such behavior should Hagel be nominated for the defense post. With competing military and civilian interests vying for supremacy, the department requires a skilled manager, sources said.

COMMENT:  You have to wonder:  With so many qualified men and women available for the sensitive post of secretary of defense, why would Obama even have a man like Hagel on his list?  It tells us something about Obama, and what it tells us isn't very encouraging.

There have been some stories circulating that Hagel is losing favor in the face of the wall of criticism his possible selection has generated.  We hope that's true, but there's no confirmation.  Hagel is a preventable disaster.  But, alas, so was Obama's re-election.

December 20, 2012