William Katz:  Urgent Agenda






AT BAT – AT 8:16 A.M. ET:  Confirmation hearings for Chuck Hagel begin today.  Should be an interesting affair.  It is expected that Hagel will eventually be confirmed, but only after undergoing some tough questions from senators.

Historically, his soft views on Iran, his willingness to consider drastic defense cuts, his hostility to American allies like Israel, have placed Hagel outside the American mainstream, and to the left even of Barack Obama.  But Hagel seems to have undergone what is sometimes called a "confirmation conversion," and he is now talking like George W. Bush.  Frankly, I don't buy it.  The best we can hope for is that he has learned just how foolish some of his "past" views were, and that he has, as they say in Washington, "evolved."  That means he's saying the right things to get the job he wants.  The Washington Post reports that Hagel has been on a "charm offensive," a term that used to be applied to the old Soviet Union, which periodically put on a happy face to the West when it wanted something.  Didn't last long.  From WaPo:

Chuck Hagel, the former Republican senator tapped to become the next secretary of defense, has gone on a charm offensive in the lead-up to his confirmation hearing on Thursday, attempting to beat back a well-funded, aggressive campaign that has sought to depict him as an anti-Israel, homophobic politician eager to gut the Pentagon’s budget.

This could have been a better-reported story except for the obvious bias of the reporter.  Phrases like "well-funded" and "sought to depict him..." show bias.  You know, it's those rich neo-cons out there who are twisting Hagel's record.  No, it's a lot of people simply discussing Hagel's public record, which is there for all to say.

Hagel’s pushback during meetings with more than 50 senators and leaders of special interest groups this month appears to have been effective, said an official helping him prepare for the hearing.

The effort to vilify Hagel and his record, which began when his name was first floated for the job in December, has remained at a buzz but has not reached the type of crescendo that has doomed high-profile political nominations in the past.

Again, there's been no attempt to "vilify" Hagel.  His record is clear and speaks for itself.  This story needed the attention of an old-fashioned editor, but it does present the basic facts of Hagel's charm offensive. 

“We’ve had a very aggressive strategy for tackling some of the issues that have been raised,” the Hagel aide said Wednesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the nominee’s outlook. “I think we’re in a good place.”

That’s not to say Hagel’s confirmation is a forgone conclusion, supporters concede. Critics have piled onto the initial critiques with charges that Hagel’s ties to defense contractors and other private-sector firms may create conflicts of interest. They also have criticized his support for a global movement to eliminate nuclear weapons.

COMMENT:  Republican Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, which will conduct the confirmation hearings, is not a Hagel supporter.  Inhofe has emerged as one of the most conscientious members of the Senate, a man whose views don't collapse every time someone asks him a question.

Watching Inhofe and his colleague, John McCain, should be very interesting.  McCain and Hagel used to be friends, but Hagel turned against McCain to cozy up to Obama.  They are not friends now.

Inhofe has openly raised the question of how a man like Hagel can change his views so conveniently.  I hope he asks that of Hagel directly.

January 31,  2013