It appears as though the Editors of National Review Online — not to mention yours truly — were too hasty in concluding last month that “Chuck Hagel is definitively not the man who should be the next secretary of defense. And considering the problems it will create for the Obama administration should they nominate him, we trust he won’t be.”
Because it now seems clear that Barack Obama will get Chuck Hagel as his next secretary of defense. It’s true that a number of Senate Republicans — including Senators McCain, Graham, Cornyn, Wicker, Vitter, and Cruz — have said they will oppose Hagel, while a number of Democrats, most conspicuously No. 3 Dem Chuck Schumer, have been noncommittal. But no Democrats have said outright they will defy their president on such an important nomination, and Majority Leader Harry Reid has endorsed the nominee, something he would not have done without knowing the temperature of his caucus. The external opposition has been both ardent and effective in securing headlines, but it is relatively narrow in scope. Even the high-firepower group AIPAC — which many thought might lead the charge against Hagel over his views on Israel — has decided to sit this one out.
Things could still change, of course. Confirmation hearings could bring new information to light. Hagel could damage himself in testimony. Or a unified Republican caucus could mount a filibuster. The wild card in the latter option is whether Hagel’s nomination process will occur under a new framework for limiting filibusters that could come out of negotiations between Reid and Republican leader Mitch McConnell. The explicit and implicit promises made under such an agreement could determine the feasibility of such a maneuver.