Saturday, February 2, 2013


Sen. John McCain grills Chuck Hagel at Senate Foreign
Relations Committee hearing -
        The Republican members of the Senate Armed Services Committee were downright mean to their former colleague Chuck Hagel at his confirmation hearing yesterday. Why? Because he is President Obama’s nominee to succeed Leon Panetta as Secretary of  Defense! In attacking Hagel they were attacking the President.
       Senator John McCain, for whose presidential bid in 2000 Hagel had served as National co-chairman, was particularly hard on the nominee, though the two men were fellow Vietnam war veterans and had been close friends. But with friends like John McCain who needs enemies?
        McCain’s not so hidden agenda throughout his questioning was to justify the war in Iraq. At one point he tried to pin down Hagel regarding his opposition to the troop surge, which in 2007 then  Senator Hagel had called the “most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam.” “Were you right?” asked McCain. “Were you correct in your assessment?”
        Hagel offered to explain why he had made the comment when he did. McCain interrupted,“I want to know if you were right or wrong! That’s a direct question, I expect a direct answer.” Hagel’s persistent refusal to fall into the “Yes” or “No” trap drew this terse comment from his questioner: “Let the record show that you refused to answer that question. Now please go ahead.”
        Senator Hagel had been a harsh critic of the war in Iraq, as was then Senator Barack Obama. But the nominee did not want to go on record now as opposing the troop surge that the President had  authorized. That remark, he said, was in the context of his over-all opposition to the war.
        Some questions cannot be answered with a simple Yes or No. It’s most annoying when someone demands an either/or response to a question that requires a complex answer. Senator McCain’s question was one of those. Senator Hagel’s reply could have been “Yes, and no!” That would have forced McCain to ask him how it could be both, thus calling for an explanation and legitimizing Hagel’s right to respond the way he did, instead of appearing to dodge the question.
        Chuck Hagel may not have acquitted himself in that hearing well enough to suit some people, but
in regard to the war in Iraq, it is Senator Hagel, like the man who has nominated him for Secretary of State, who was and is on the right side of history, not John McCain.

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