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Obama 'Underestimated the Opposition' to Hagel

11:46 AM, Jan 18, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Jen Rubin, writing about the nomination of Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense:

In the Chuck Hagel confirmation battle, the right has demonstrated remarkable unity. If the vote on Hagel were taken today, there likely would be 35 to 40 Republican “no” votes, perhaps more. Diverse interests (support for Israel, defense of defense spending), carried by an array of entities (Americans for a Strong Defense, The American Future Fund, Emergency Committee for Israel, Christians United for Israel, Republican Jewish Coalition) and representing different segments of the party (Christian Zionists, hawks), have come together in a remarkably short period of time. The Republican National Committee has stepped up as well, providing data on Hagel’s record.

Usually in these fights, the left drives the message, greatly aided by the liberal media. We have seen in Robert Bork and Samuel Alito’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings how the left gathers an array of organizations. In this case, however, the president’s team grossly underestimated the opposition. Perhaps the White House did not imagine that a band of right-leaning groups could emerge so swiftly and provide so much fodder for senators opposed to the Hagel nomination.

The president made a content-less speech introducing the nominee as an injured vet. Beyond that, the Hagel handlers have been perpetually on the defensive. As Paul Bedard reported, citing Senate Democratic sources, “some members are complaining that President Obama has yet to explain to them why he picked the gruff Nebraska Republican and why the White House hasn’t supplied them with extensive talking points to use to support him.” Bedard quotes a key Dem aide: “All he has to do is tell us why he picked him, and he hasn’t done that. It makes it hard to fight for Hagel.” Perhaps beyond his Vietnam status, there isn’t much of a positive case to be made.

Some of these anti-Hagel groups are targeting red-state senators whose vote for Hagel will energize evangelicals to oppose them and leave them open to attacks on defense and defense jobs. Others exert pressure on GOP stragglers, to remind them how central support for Israel is to the Republican Party. Still others hope in vain for blue-state Democrats who put principle before fidelity to the White House. It is not a matter of the “vast right-wing conspiracy,” for this effort is neither vast nor, in many cases, all that right-wing; nor do these groups sit in a war room together mapping out the next move.

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