If you had buttonholed me in the Senate men’s room circa 2003 and told me that a decade hence Joe Biden would be America’s vice president, John Kerry secretary of state, and Chuck Hagel secretary of defense, I’d have laughed and waited for the punch line: The Leahy administration? President Lautenberg? Celebrate lack of diversity! But even in the republic’s descent into a Blowhardocracy staffed by a Zombie House of Lords, there are distinctions to be drawn. Senator Kerry having been reliably wrong on every foreign-policy issue of the last 40 years, it would seem likely that at this stage in his life he will be content merely to be in office, jetting hither and yon boring the pants off whichever presidents and prime ministers are foolish enough to grant him an audience. Beyond the photo-ops, the world will drift on toward the post-American era: Beijing will carry on gobbling up resources around the planet, Czar Putin will flex his moobs across Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the Arab Spring “democracies” will see impressive growth in the critical clitoridectomy sector of the economy, Iran will go nuclear, and John Kerry will go to black-tie banquets in Europe. But Chuck Hagel is a different kettle of senatorial huffenpuffer. And not because of what appears to be a certain antipathy toward Jews and gays. That would be awkward at the Tony Awards, but at the Arab League the post-summit locker-room schmoozing should be a breeze. Since his celebrated “evolution” on marriage last year, President Obama is famously partial to one of those constituencies, so presumably he didn’t nominate an obscure forgotten senator because of his fascinating insights into the appropriate level of “obviousness” the differently oriented should adopt. So why Hagel? Why now?
My comrade Jonah Goldberg says this nomination is a “petty pick” made by Obama “out of spite.” I’m not so sure. If the signature accomplishment of the president’s first term was Obamacare (I’m using “signature accomplishment” in the Washington sense of “ruinously expensive bureaucratic sinkhole”), what would he be looking to pull off in his second (aside from the repeal of the 22nd Amendment)? Hagel isn’t being nominated to the Department of Zionist and Homosexual Regulatory Oversight but to the Department of Defense. Which he calls “bloated.”