We may, as George Orwell observed, “have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.” But there isn’t an intelligent liberal, or for that matter a sentient one, who doesn’t know, after last week’s confirmation hearing, that Chuck Hagel isn’t a first-rate candidate for secretary of defense. He isn’t even a second-rate candidate. Has there ever been a more embarrassing confirmation hearing than Hagel’s for a major cabinet position? For a minor cabinet position? For a sub-cabinet position? We don’t know of one.
Yet so far liberals seem to be trying to pretend that all is well. Or they have simply averted their gaze from the ghastly train wreck. Or, they tell us (and themselves)—well, the secretary of defense doesn’t really make policy, and there are lots of capable bureaucrats who can run the department. Or, they grumble—well, we can’t give Hagel’s critics the satisfaction of acknowledging that this appointment is a disaster.
The question is whether there are a few good men or women—serious liberals willing to speak truth to power, honorable Democratic senators willing to put country before party—who will step forward to sink the Hagel nomination.