William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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THE HAGEL WATCH – AT 10:46 A.M. ET:  There is some speculation coming from informed circles that odds are rising that Hagel may have to withdraw his nomination to be secretary of defense.  It would be none too soon. From the Weekly Standard:

Thomas E. Ricks, who is well-sourced in Democratic national security policy circles, says there's a "50-50" chance Chuck Hagel withdraws from consideration for the secretary of defense job.

Ricks says that Hagel "didn't do well" in his Senate hearing last week, and didn't seem "interested in the job."

"He has the votes, but not much else," writes Ricks. "His big problem is that no one much wants him running the Pentagon. Congressional Republicans consider him a traitor. Congressional Democrats see him as anti-gay and anti-abortion, undercutting their support for him. And Northeastern Democrats (and some others) worry about his stance on Israel. Democratic support in the Senate appears more dutiful than passionate."

Ricks says Hagel's position right now is a "problem." He writes, "The prospect of a Hagel regime at DOD is a real problem now because the next SecDef will need to do two things: Work with Congress to reduce the defense budget thoughtfully, and work with the military to re-shape the military to make it relevant to future conflict. At the moment, Hagel appears to lack the political capital to do the former, as well as the intellectual appetite to do the latter."

COMMENT:  We hope Hagel withdraws, but don't see any immediate signs of it.  Indeed, Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, a moderate Democrat, just announced her support for Hagel, despite Hagel's disastrous performance. 

You'd think that President Obama, at this critical time, would want a defense secretary who is widely respected.  But he apparently doesn't care.  He just wants his way, and the potted plants on the Democratic side of the Senate are going right along with him. 

Odds are still that Hagel will be confirmed.  But all it will take is one more revelation, or a few Dem defections, for that situation to be reversed.

February 9, 2013