Former Sen. Chuck Hagel,
a twice-wounded Vietnam War veteran, deserves full consideration from his former Senate colleagues in his bid to become Secretary of Defense.
A hardline cadre of Republicans is opposing the nomination of the two-term Nebraska Republican for what appears to be blatantly political reasons. That's their right, and they are free to vote against confirming him as President Obama's choice to lead the Pentagon.
They've crossed the line, however, in refusing to allow a vote on Hagel until the administration answers their questions about the deadly raid on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi in September, which resulted in the deaths of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and several others. They teamed up to deny consideration of the nomination through a procedural manuever, effectively holding Hagel hostage until the White House responds.
Chuck Hagel had nothing to do with what happened in Benghazi and the obstructionists, who include Sen. John McCain, who lost his bid for the presidency to Barack Obama four years ago, know that. They also realize that, barring any unforeseen developments, a president with a majority in the Senate is likely to get his way on his Cabinet nominees.
Hagel has run afoul of his former colleagues for a number of reasons. Some contend he isn't sufficiently pro-Israel, which evidently has become a GOP litmus test for the top post at the Pentagon. Others question his attitude toward Iran; he would rather continue to negotiate with Tehran than plunge the nation into another war in the region after more than a decade of costly military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
McCain has said "there's a lot of ill will" toward Hagel because he "attacked President Bush mercilessly" and said the surge of U.S. troops in Iraq "was the worst blunder since the Vietnam War." According to the Arizona senator, Hagel "was anti-his own party and people ... People don't forget that."
President Obama, in choosing Hagel, crossed party lines to nominate a man with a background in combat who understands first-hand the costs of war. For purely political reasons, a qualified nominee has been pilloried by those who once served with him in the Senate.
McCain and the others gunning for Hagel don't have the votes to kill his nomination. Their petty obstructionism is aimed at embarrassing the former senator and the president who selected him.
Americans are still dying in the war in Afghanistan, and the Pentagon needs leadership. The hardliners have made their symbolic point. It's time to get out of the way and allow this nominee to receive the vote he deserves.