Defense Secretary-designate Chuck Hagel will take the oath of office later today, which will likely be a satisfying resolution to a difficult confirmation process. But before he's sworn in, Senate Republicans issued one last challenge to their former colleague.
As Chuck Hagel proceeded toward confirmation Tuesday, several Republican senators said that he will have a lot of work ahead of him to prove himself and repair his relationships in the Senate after the Pentagon nominee's long and bruising confirmation battle. [...]
Several GOP senators who were directly involved in the Hagel fight ... said they were willing to work with Hagel but that it was Hagel's responsibility, not the Senate's, to mend fences and prove that he can do the job.
This has to be one of the more amusing things I've heard from Senate Republicans in quite a while. In effect, the line from the GOP minority is, "We smeared Chuck Hagel, we questioned his patriotism, we questioned his loyalties, and we accused him without proof of having ties to America's enemies. Now that he's confirmed, we expect Hagel to start mending the relationship we destroyed on purpose as part of our partisan scorched-earth campaign."
Even by Republican standards, this is pretty nutty.
Stepping back, I'm still not altogether sure what the GOP strategy was on Hagel -- all the public saw was a Republican tantrum over President Obama nominating another Republican to his cabinet -- but the party's tactics are not without defenders.
Aaron Blake, for example, argued that the Republicans' anti-Hagel campaign may have come up short, but "it was worth it."
...Republicans were able to bring his numbers down a little, with Pew showing his unfavorable rating rising from 18 percent in January to 28 percent last week (his favorable rating also rose slightly, from 18 percent to 22 percent, over that span).
In the end, the Hagel nomination will amount to little more than an inside baseball political game. Republicans effectively registered their concerns and have, for the second time this year, either thwarted one of President Obama's likely Cabinet picks (Susan Rice) or served notice that they won't be steamrolled into supporting divisive nominees (Hagel).
There's nothing especially wrong with this in terms of factual claims. Hagel was largely unknown to the public before the confirmation fight, and he appears to be slightly more controversial now. Of course, unless the Nebraska Republican intends to seek elected office again, polls like these are likely to be inconsequential.
And it's true that the Senate minority "served notice" that it'll fight against nominees they don't like, but I'm fairly certain Democrats knew that anyway, and it's unlikely to affect President Obama's nominating decisions in any way going forward.
After all, Hagel won. As partisan fights go, this was a brush-back pitch from the GOP that didn't come close to the batter.
So, ultimately, what was the point of Republicans launching a half-hearted war against Hagel? Steve M's take rings true:
What this reminds me of is high school -- no, junior high. I wasn't seriously bullied back in those years, but I went through some low-level harassment, and I saw some directed at others.
You know the guy who'd slump in his seat as you'd walk down the aisle, so you'd trip over his feet? Or the guy who'd shove you into a bank of lockers and then just keep walking? These weren't beatdowns. They didn't cause real pain or leave marks. It was all just meant to throw you off stride, and to make sure you knew where you (and the perpetrator) stood in the pecking order.
The people who did those things in my school years obviously derived satisfaction from them. Their political counterparts are modern-day Republicans.