Current Events and the Psychology of Politics

Featured Posts        





Former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Distinguished Professor in the Practice of National Governance at Georgetown University; and Dr. Aubrey Immelman, Associate Professor of Psychology, St. Johns University, Collegeville, Minn., Sept. 23, 2009.The Washington Post editorial board
has it wrong.

Chuck Hagel is the right choice
for Secretary of Defense.

President Obama: Please nominate Sen. Hagel now.

U.S. Senate: Please confirm Sen. Hagel without delay.


Neocons Push Against Chuck Hagel

By Dana Milbank

Opinion Writer

December 18, 2012

After word leaked from the White House late last week that Chuck Hagel was in line to become the next secretary of defense, Bill Kristol’s Weekly Standard manned the Patriot missile batteries to shoot down that trial balloon.

The neoconservative journal, no fan of the iconoclastic former Republican senator, published a smear under the headline: “Senate aide: ‘Send us Hagel and we will make sure every American knows he is an anti-Semite.’ ” …

The Hagel hit is wrong on the merits, but it’s particularly egregious because the former senator from Nebraska is among the best and bravest public servants. He was an enlisted man in Vietnam, earning two Purple Hearts in jungle combat. In his legislative career, he was a powerful voice against the chicken hawks who have recklessly sent American troops to their deaths; he became one of the most outspoken critics of George W. Bush’s handling of the Iraq war.

Hagel would probably be swiftly confirmed by the Senate, and he should be: A man of unassailable military credentials who regards war as a last resort is exactly the sort of person to head the Pentagon. …

It’s indicative of an infantry sergeant who isn’t opposed to war (he voted for the conflicts in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq) but knows the grim costs of going to war without a plan. And it’s indicative of a decorated military man who, unlike some of his neocon critics, knows that military action doesn’t solve everything.

Full story


Related reports

Chuck Hagel, Susan Rice and the New Normal for Cabinet Nominations

Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.). (Photo credit Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images via the Washington Post)

By Aaron Blake
The Fix blog

December 20, 2012

For the second time in a matter of weeks, a top pick for one of President Obama’s top Cabinet posts is running into some real roadblocks.

And perhaps nothing is a better metaphor for the increasing polarization of American politics.

Former senator Chuck Hagel’s (R-Neb.) potential/likely nomination as Secretary of Defense looms this week amid a growing chorus of criticism over his past comments about Israel and his policy positions on issues including the defense budget.

It seems some are bent on defeating Hagel’s nomination before it can even become official — much as Republican senators did with potential Secretary of State pick Susan Rice just last week. In fact, the same GOP senators who scuttled the Rice pick are now expressing doubts about Hagel.

A battle over Hagel would be highly unusual — both because we just had one over Rice and because both senators nominated to Cabinet posts and Secretary of Defense nominees generally sail to confirmation. …

Most presidents only run into a couple problem nominations during their entire presidencies — only 21 Cabinet nominees in history have been defeated or withdrawn — but Obama may have two in a span of a month.

What’s more, secretary nominees for State and Defense in particular have cruised through the confirmation process. No Secretary of State nominee has ever been defeated, and the only Secretary of Defense nominee to fall was John Tower, who succumbed to personal issues in 1989. …

Opposition to Hagel’s nomination is particularly striking given his past as a war hero in Vietnam and what we might otherwise consider to be bipartisan appeal. …

Whether it’s merely a momentary headache or another potential failed Cabinet pick, it’s far too early to say.

What we do know is that the early opposition to Hagel is a perfect example of the politicization of, well, basically everything. …

Full story


Chuck Hagel Allies Fire Back; Critics Push for Michèle Flournoy

Chuck Hagel and Michele Flournoy are pictured. | AP Photos
Chuck Hagel’s detractors have begun to embrace Michèle Flournoy as an alternative. (Photo credit: AP via Politic)

By Tim Mak Logo
December 19, 2012

After days of attacks on the man said to be Barack Obama’s top pick to be his next Defense secretary, Chuck Hagel’s friends are speaking out on his behalf.

As for his adversaries, they’re pushing somebody else to run the Pentagon: Its former undersecretary of Defense for policy, Michèle Flournoy.

First, Hagel’s allies: In response to sustained criticism by pro-Israel voices, Hagel’s former aides on Wednesday released a fact sheet outlining his positions on national security, Israel and the Middle East.

“Chuck Hagel is being misrepresented as anti-Israel and ‘soft’ on Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah. These accusations misrepresent Sen. Hagel’s positions on national security, Israel and the Middle East,” according to he fact sheet.

The document defends him on the suggestion that he is insufficiently pro-Israel, quoting from Hagel’s 2008 book, “America: Our Next Chapter”: “At its  core, there will always be a special and historic bond with Israel exemplified by our continued commitment to Israel’s defense,” he wrote.

Separately, a group of nine former ambassadors signed a letter, obtained by POLITICO, that put their support behind Hagel, calling him “an impeccable  choice” to be Defense secretary. The signatories included Nicholas Burns, the former undersecretary of State for political affairs; Ryan Crocker, the former ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan; and Edward Djerejian, a former ambassador to Israel and Syria.

Others who know him are responding with strong words of their own.

“I think the criticisms come from a very small, clearly prejudiced minority that has taken pretty much everything that he’s said out of context to further  their own cause,” said retired Brig. Gen. Stephen Cheney, CEO of the American  Security Project, of which Hagel is a board member. “Absolutely ridiculous, that  criticism.”

Former State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley called the contention that Hagel is insufficiently pro-Israel “a false argument.”

“The national security interests of the United States and Israel are  different,” Crowley said. “If you look at Sen. Hagel’s record you will see that he has been extremely supportive about the strategic relationship between the  United States and Israel, but where their interests diverge, he hasn’t been shy about saying so.”

Retired Adm. William Fallon, who worked with Hagel in a number of military  positions, called him exactly the kind of person sorely lacking in the arena right now.

“It’s unfortunate [he is being attacked], and illustrative of where we are politically in this country,” he said. “I’m personally fed up with the continual partisan bickering … Sen. Chuck Hagel is smart, savvy, very pragmatic and I have found him to be very straightforward.”

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who is Jewish, said he did not object to what has become one big point of contention about Hagel: an allusion to the “Jewish  lobby,” in reference to advocates for Israel in Congress and elsewhere. …

Unlike some presidential nominees, he has proven controversial after the White House leaks that he was at the top of the list to run the Pentagon. Half a dozen defense lobbyists told POLITICO they were unenthusiastic about him — at  best. …

In an editorial this week opposing Hagel who has not officially been nominated — the Washington Post made its own case for Flournoy as a compromise candidate.

“Former Undersecretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy … is a seasoned policymaker who understands how to manage the Pentagon bureaucracy and where responsible cuts can be made. She would bring welcome diversity as the nation’s first female Defense secretary.”

And in a Weekly Standard piece in which conservative commentator Bill Kristol  condemned Hagel for being “anti-Israel,” he argued that Flournoy — along with  another top candidate, Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter — were better  qualified for the job.

Two of the biggest criticisms of Hagel have been his past positions on Israel and that his appointment wouldn’t increase diversity in the Cabinet. Flournoy is  the solution to both those problems, a senior Republican Senate aide told  POLITICO. …

Flournoy did not respond to a request for comment, and some who have spoken  to her consider it an open question about how enthusiastic she would be about the job. Flournoy left her position in the Pentagon in February saying she wanted to spend more time with her family, but those who know her said she might well agree to return to the Building if the president asked. …

Full story


Biographical information on former Sen. Chuck Hagel, possible candidate for defense secretary (The Associated Press, Dec. 17, 2012)

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) leaves a news conference in Omaha, Nebraska in this March 12, 2007, file photo. (Photo credit: Dave Kaup / Reuters)


12/26/2012 Update

Give Chuck a Chance

Thomas L. Friedman (Photo credit:
Josh Haner / The New York Times)

Opinion by Thomas L. Friedman

December 26, 2012 (p. A25)


In case you haven’t heard, President Obama is considering appointing Chuck Hagel, a former United States senator from Nebraska and a Purple Heart winner, as the next secretary of defense — and this has triggered a minifirefight among Hagel critics and supporters. I am a Hagel supporter. I think he would make a fine secretary of defense — precisely because some of his views are not “mainstream.” I find the opposition to him falling into two baskets: the disgusting and the philosophical. It is vital to look at both to appreciate why Hagel would be a good fit for Defense at this time.

The disgusting is the fact that because Hagel once described the Israel lobby as the “Jewish lobby” (it also contains some Christians). And because he has rather bluntly stated that his job as a U.S. senator was not to take orders from the Israel lobby but to advance U.S. interests, he is smeared as an Israel-hater at best and an anti-Semite at worst. If ever Israel needed a U.S. defense secretary who was committed to Israel’s survival, as Hagel has repeatedly stated — but who was convinced that ensuring that survival didn’t mean having America go along with Israel’s self-destructive drift into settling the West Bank and obviating a two-state solution — it is now. …

The only thing standing between Israel and national suicide any more is America and its willingness to tell Israel the truth. But most U.S. senators, policy makers and Jews prefer to stick their heads in the sand, because confronting Israel is so unpleasant and politically dangerous. Hagel at least cares enough about Israel to be an exception. …

So, yes, put me in the camp of those who think that a few more bluntly outspoken friends of Israel in the U.S. cabinet would be a good thing.

The legitimate philosophical criticism of Hagel concerns his stated preferences for finding a negotiated solution to Iran’s nuclear program, his willingness to engage Hamas to see if it can be moved from its extremism, his belief that the Pentagon budget must be cut, and his aversion to going to war again in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, because he has been to war and knows how much can go wrong. Whether you agree with these views or not, it would be nothing but healthy to have them included in the president’s national security debates.

For instance, it’s impossible for me to see how America can secure its interests in Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Bahrain and Lebanon without ending the U.S.-Iran cold war in the Middle East. I’m skeptical that it’s possible. I think the Iranian regime needs hostility with America to justify its hold on power. But with sanctions really biting Iran, I’d like to test and test again whether a diplomatic deal is possible before any military strike. …

So, yes, Hagel is out of the mainstream. That is exactly why his voice would be valuable right now. President Obama will still make all the final calls, but let him do so after having heard all the alternatives.

Full story


1/4/2013 Update

Hagel Likely to Be Nominated for Defense Secretary Next Week


Obama weighs options for key posts (MSNBC “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” Jan. 4, 2013) — When President Barack Obama returns to Washington this weekend, he will still have two big cabinet posts to fill and the current favorite for Secretary of Defense — Chuck Hagel — is taking heat on a range of issues. Obama 2012 traveling press secretary Jen Pskai and former RNC Chairman Michael Steele discuss. (05:15)

By Chuck Todd

First Read
January 4, 2013

Multiple sources on Capitol Hill and in key special-interest groups involved in national security issues say they have been told to be prepared for a Chuck Hagel nomination for Defense Secretary, either as early as Monday or perhaps more likely Tuesday of next week.

While it’s still possible for the president to have a change of heart, all signs are pointing to a Hagel nomination.

That said, a White House spokesperson tells NBC News pretty emphatically that the president has not made a final decision and does not expect the president to make a final decision until he gets back from Hawaii. …

For what it’s worth, the reason a lot of outside sources are being given a heads up on Hagel is that the White House knows if Hagel is indeed the president’s choice, it’s going to be a real fight.

Hagel’s 2008 statement that “the Jewish lobby” intimidates many lawmakers has drawn criticism from both sides of the aisle, and some have painted him as weak on defense issues. Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York, a top-ranking Jewish senator, passed on the opportunity to offer an endorsement for Hagel during an appearance on Meet the Press, while Republican Sen. John Cornyn called his positions on Iran and nuclear weapons “unacceptable.”


Obama: Nothing disqualifying former Sen. Hagel for Defense Secretary (NBC “Meet the Press,” Dec. 30, 2012) — President Obama responds to criticism of Chuck Hagel as a potential replacement for Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. (01:24)

Hagel also recently apologized for his 1998 opposition to an ambassadorial nominee whom he described as “openly, aggressively gay.”

There are as many as 10 Democratic senators who could vote no, Capitol Hill sources say. But Hagel has some big backers besides the president who would become the key point people in getting Hagel over the finish line – Vice President Joe Biden and Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, both of whom are huge proponents of Hagel. …

Bottom line: It appears to be Hagel, but the White House says no final decision has been made.

News of the expected nomination was first reported by Foreign Policy magazine’s The Cable blog.

Full story


1/15/2013 Update

Chuck Hagel & John Brennan Will Carry Out Obama’s Foreign Policy

By Ron Paul
January 13, 2012

President Obama announced his choices for key national security posts this past week, and there has been both celebration and gnashing of teeth in Washington and around the country. There is widespread belief that either or both of these nominees will have an immediate and profound effect on US policy. …

Many who object to our continued foreign policy of endless war and empire overseas feel encouraged by Obama’s choice of Senator Hagel to head the Defense Department. Hagel has shown some admirable willingness to advise caution overseas. He is seen as unenthusiastic over the prospects of a US war on Iran, which is certainly to be welcomed. But let us not forget that he did vote for the war against Iraq, he has expressed support for multi-lateral sanctions on Iran, and last year he wrote in the Washington Post that, on Iran, he supports “keeping all options on the table, including the use of military force.” …

Nevertheless because he does represent a more moderate voice in foreign policy than the neo-conservatives can tolerate, they are dragging his name through the mud. In choosing Hagel, then, we can hope the president is signaling that he will pursue a less aggressive foreign policy in his second term. …

Read or listen to the rest of Ron Paul’s column here.


2/3/2013 Update

Panetta Comes to Hagel’s Defense After Nominee’s Difficult Confirmation Hearing


Panetta: Chuck Hagel ‘absolutely’ prepared to take my place (NBC “Meet the Press,” Feb. 3, 2013) — Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta comments on Hagel’s tough hearing last Thursday before the Senate and brings up some questions that should have been asked. (01:52)

By Tom Curry
National Affairs Writer

February 3, 2013

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta came to the aid of former Sen. Chuck Hagel, the man President Barack Obama nominated to succeed him, saying on NBC’s Meet the Press, “The political knives were out for Chuck Hagel” during his confirmation hearing last week.

In nearly eight hours of testimony before the Senate Armed Service Committee on Thursday, Hagel spent much time revising and clarifying his previous remarks – including a spontaneous error at the hearing itself on whether United States policy toward Iran’s nuclear weapons program was one of containment.

Panetta complained that the members of the committee spent too little time questioning Hagel about the current challenges the Defense Department faces, such as looming budget cuts, and spent too much time examining statements Hagel made in the past.

Panetta insisted to NBC’s Chuck Todd that Hagel was “absolutely” prepared to take his place leading the Defense Department.

Panetta’s backing of Hagel was seconded by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, who said “in helping prepare him for his confirmation hearings, we had several opportunities to talk about strategy. And I found him well-prepared and very thoughtful about it.” …

Full story


2/25/2013 Update

Hagel Appears to Have the Votes for Confirmation

Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) testifies during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on his nomination to be Defense Secretary, on Capitol Hill in Washington, in this January 31, 2013, file photo. (Photo credit: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)

By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Brooke Brower

First Read
February 22, 2013

A week has passed since a Republican filibuster stalled Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be defense secretary, and yesterday we received even more evidence that Hagel will win confirmation on Tuesday. Let us count the ways:

First, yet another GOP senator — Richard Shelby, who backed the filibuster — is now expected to vote for Hagel’s confirmation, becoming the third Republican “yes” vote (Thad Cochran and Mike Johanns are the others). Assuming every Senate Democrat votes for Hagel, that’s at least 58 votes for simple passage.

But more importantly, the Shelby news means that there are now at least 60 votes to beat any additional filibusters, because the Obama White House was just one vote away from reaching that threshold. (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid switched his vote to “no” in order to be able to bring up Hagel’s nomination again.) And that’s 60 votes without counting Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain, who both promised to bring Hagel’s nomination to the floor after an extra week of deliberation.

Second, we learned yesterday that 15 GOP senators penned a letter asking President Obama to withdraw Hagel’s nomination. Translation: We don’t have the votes to stop Hagel.

Finally, in the third “tell” of the day on Hagel, GOP Sen. James Inhofe wrote a letter to his GOP colleagues urging them to keep the filibuster going. Translation: The GOP doesn’t have 41 votes to keep the nomination stalled. …

Full story


Related reports on this site

The private war of Chuck and Tom Hagel
Chuck Hagel (right) serving with his brother Tom in Vietnam

Chuck Hagel McCarthy Lecture (Sept. 24, 2009)

Chuck Hagel Speaks in Minnesota (Sept. 23, 2009)

Sen. Chuck Hagel on National Defense (Sept. 3, 2009)

Chuck Hagel to Deliver Eugene McCarthy Lecture (July 29, 2009)

Hagel Lambasts Limbaugh (Nov. 19, 2008)

7 Responses to “Endorsed for Defense Secretary: Sen. Chuck Hagel”
  1. The Immelman Turn » Blog Archive » Chuck Hagel Speaks in Minnesota Says:

    […] Endorsement: Sen. Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense (Dec. 21, 2012) […]

  2. The Immelman Turn » Blog Archive » Hagel Lambasts Limbaugh Says:

    […] Endorsement: Sen. Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense (Dec. 21, 2012) […]

  3. The Immelman Turn » Blog Archive » Chuck Hagel McCarthy Lecture Says:

    […] Endorsement: Sen. Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense (Dec. 21, 2012) […]

  4. The Immelman Turn » Blog Archive » Chuck Hagel on National Defense Says:

    […] Endorsement: Sen. Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense (Dec. 21, 2012) […]

  5. The Immelman Turn » Blog Archive » Sen. Chuck Hagel to Speak at SJU Says:

    […] Endorsement: Sen. Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense (Dec. 21, 2012) […]

  6. The Immelman Turn » Blog Archive » Senate: Confirm Chuck Hagel Without Further Delay As Secretary of Defense Says:

    […] Endorsed for Defense Secretary: Sen. Chuck Hagel (Dec. 21, 2012) […]

  7. The Immelman Turn » Blog Archive » The Personality Profile of 2016 Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump Says:

    […] Bill Kristol, a leading critic of Donald Trump, said in an interview that he believed it was not too late to put forward a viable independent candidacy. […]

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.