Once again, though, Hillary Clinton’s 2008 election advertisement test applies: Who do you want to answer the call at three a.m.? We have before us at this moment a perfect example. The attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, where four Americans were murdered, was dropped into the lap of Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. How many Americans might die when Hagel is given the responsibility for action?
Third, one could point out that the ultimate choices for Benghazi were with Obama. But that’s also a reason for understanding why Hagel shouldn’t be confirmed. A secretary of defense should not just be a “yes-man.” He should represent an independent point of view and also represent his department’s interests.
If the secretary of defense is only a “yes-man” for the White House, that means the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and commanders in the field will be left out of decision-making. With Hagel at the helm, the uniformed military will have no spokesman when the top-level priorities and choices are set.
Fourth, the appointment of Hagel is a sign of profound disrespect for America’s soldiers. Here are people who put their lives on the line and expect to be properly led. Their lives should not be jeopardized or sacrificed lightly. By putting in a man clearly incapable of performing the job—who even admits that he cannot do it properly — it is telling them that their government doesn’t care whether they live or die.
And by the same token that selection makes it more likely that more of them will die.
Finally and ironically, Democrats and Obama supporters should oppose this nomination to save the president in spite of himself. Ensuring that he will get poor advice and have an incapable person in such a key position means that Obama will look far worse as his policies fail and crises blow up into defeats. Whether or not Obama likes it, he should have someone there to explain why the president should or shouldn’t do something. It’s for his own good.
And, of course, for America’s good.