Good morning, everyone. A quick thanks to Josh and David for having me on to live blog what should be an unusually interesting hearing. I wanted to offer three general thoughts about key things to watch for before it gets rolling:
First, it will be fascinating to watch Hagel’s demeanor during this hearing. He was known for having a quick temper during his time in the Senate, and he used his first interview after being formally nominated to fire back pretty sharply at the critics who’d spent weeks blasting him for being anti-Israel or some on Iran. GOP senators have already started raising questions about his temperament. They will no doubt try to goad him into offering an angry response that would play poorly on TV and get immediate, and widespread, media coverage. This hearing will be the first time that most Americans will have seen or heard Hagel since his name was first touted as a possible candidate. First impressions matter, and it will be interesting to see what kind Hagel leaves when the questioning gets rough.
Two, Israel and Iran have been front and center in the Hagel debate for weeks. They’re important issues, and there are legitimate questions about Hagel’s past positions on Iran sanctions given how sharply they diverge from current Obama administration policy. Hagel has tried to disavow some of his prior comments on Iran, but GOP senators have had a long time to think of ways to trip him up or to get him to say something at odds with where the White House is. We’ll see who pulls it off better.
Finally, Hagel’s service in Vietnam has been one of the White House’s main talking points since the nomination was first leaked. Republicans have struggled to find ways of honoring that service while bashing him all the same. That’s hard for a party that has painted itself as pro-military for decades. Keep an eye on how often Democratic senators mention Hagel’s time in Vietnam and how often GOP senators try to say nice things about it and then quickly move past it to their other criticism.
And with that, we’re underway.