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'Hagel's Defenseless Performance'

9:37 AM, Feb 4, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Dorothy Rabinowitz writes

It shouldn't have been surprising that the Senate hearings to confirm Chuck Hagel as the next secretary of defense ended up shedding light on much more than this nominee and his qualifications. The trumpets had sounded long in advance on the main claim for Mr. Hagel—i.e., that his experience as an enlisted man, a combat veteran, had endowed him with special expertise not given to others, on matters of war, on our nuclear capacity, the size of our defense budget, a capacity to take the measure of Iran and North Korea.

Mr. Hagel had come by this wisdom, we were informed, because he had been at the front, seen men die, and knew, as we were frequently reminded, what the ordinary soldier thought and felt. All of this, the argument ran, gave him a unique capacity to head the Defense Department.

Could rational men and women seriously credit such a claim? The credential has been touted even by Mr. Hagel's devout partisans on the left, delirious over the prospect of so conspicuous a voice of antiwar sentiment as secretary of defense. And of course by the president who chose, by this nomination, to make the dreams of those cadres come true.

The same argument was made for Mr. Hagel in the confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, though it would come less and less often as events took a decidedly disastrous turn for the nominee. Here was an affair sizzling with exchanges that seemed to come straight from a skillful Hollywood script of the old school—the kind whose most improbable scenes feel like gut-wrenching reality.

Whole thing here.

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