Did Chuck Hagel blow his shot at becoming defense secretary?

President Obama's nominee to run the Pentagon had a rough day before his former Senate GOP colleagues. He probably needs five of them to win confirmation

Former Sen. Hagel testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Jan. 31 during his confirmation hearing.
(Image credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The consensus is that former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) didn't do very well in his Senate confirmation hearing to be the next defense secretary. And few people in Washington are happier about that than Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin, one of Hagel's most tenacious critics. "It's fascinating, actually, to see a nominee of this importance do so poorly," she says. Hagel went "from awful to atrocious" on Thursday, repeatedly correcting himself, disavowing his own words, and squirming under the questioning from his former GOP colleagues. "Forgetting about his views, he does not radiate the confidence nor project the intelligence the job demands." Can Republicans stop him?

Hagel is sinking his own nomination. Will any Democrats throw up their hands and refuse to pretend he is credible and competent? Maybe. But every single Republican — any fair person not under the thumb of the White House, really — has more than enough reason to oppose and block the nomination. Hagel has proven himself to be a remarkably ill-considered pick. If the Democrats won't, Republican senators should save the president and the country from an unqualified and unsuited pick. [Washington Post]

Hagel was fine — it's the Republicans who attacked him "with the pitchfork zeal of heretic hunters" we need to worry about, says John Avlon at The Daily Beast. Hagel is "a small-government conservative" with internationalist inclinations, but his "calm recitation of consensus catechism on issues ranging from Iran to Israel to nuclear weapons didn't seem to make any impression" on his Republican interrogators. This wasn't about policy; "this was personal," payback for opposing the Iraq War and agreeing to work for the hated Obama. "Defeating Chuck Hagel's nomination — or destroying his reputation through 1,000 cuts — seems to be a priority for the GOP," and the disrespect the Nebraska Republican's former colleagues and friends heaped on him "was striking and ugly."

The Hagel inquisition was so preoccupied with partisan opposition research and repeated gotcha questions that other critically important issues — cyber-warfare; al Qaeda in North Africa; military suicides; the integration of openly gay soldiers and the new role of women in combat — did not get the attention they need and deserve, despite Hagel's best attempts. [Daily Beast]

So, what did Republicans ask Hagel about?

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.