We'll know soon enough whether former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) is President Obama's choice to lead the Pentagon, but it's clear that Senate Republicans intend to give him the Susan Rice treatment if his nomination reaches the chamber. For the GOP, their former colleague is a radical liberal who's anti-Israel and pro-Iran. John McCain said last week that Hagel isn't even a Republican by his standards.
But as Josh Rogin reminds us today, that's not what Hagel's former allies were saying four years ago (thanks to my colleague Vanessa Silverton-Peel for the heads-up).
That's quite a change from the sentiments McCain and his GOP Senate colleagues expressed about Hagel the last time his name was mentioned for high office, when he resigned from the Senate in 2008. At that time, presidential candidate McCain said he and Hagel were "close and dear friends" and that Hagel could have a place in a McCain administration.
"I'd be honored to have Chuck with me in any capacity," McCain told the New York Times in 2006. "He'd make a great secretary of state." [...]
McCain also said it was good that Obama chose to bring Hagel to Iraq, because even though the two Vietnam veterans had developed opposing views on the Iraq war, McCain said Hagel "has military experience (and) knowledge of these issues." He also said Hagel was a "respected leader in America" who "served his country admirably, with honor and distinction."
When Hagel departed the Senate in 2008, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) praised his "clear voice on foreign policy and national security" and his "stature as a leading voice in foreign affairs." Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) added that Hagel "understands the world better than almost anyone."
Remember, all of this came upon Hagel's retirement -- after he cast the Senate votes GOP members are now pretending to find offensive.
The larger dynamic is hard to miss: Republicans liked Hagel quite a bit, right up until Obama said he agreed with them.