Giving Them Fits

January 10, 2013 4:58 a.m.

Two choice nuggets from Eli Lake’s piece this morning on the Hagel nomination.

The first is a Karl Rove classic: a personal anecdote meant to suggest that Hagel isn’t nobly independent but merely unpredictable and self-serving. A stabbed in the back vignette that cuts through the highfalutin foreign policy debate between neoconservatives and realists and gets to the “real” visceral issue of character.According to Rove’s account, Hagel veritably forced himself on George W. Bush as an early endorser before the 2000 campaign but then switched his support to John McCain once he entered the race. Classic Rove is the very specific, mundane detail: “Karl Rove, then a top adviser to the governor, says he remembers Hagel flying to Austin after Rove politely tried to dissuade him from the trip because the governor’s schedule was crowded.”

Rove sets up his own story nicely then delivers the punch: “He wanted to be a big guy and talk to the paper,” Rove said. “Then when McCain became a credible candidate he just flipped. That’s Hagel: mercurial, focused on doing it his way.”

The second jab comes from Randy Scheunemann, the neoconservatie diehard who was a McCain guy in 2000 and 2008. Hagel endorsed McCain. So all good, right? Hardly. No single person might embody a foreign policy approach more diametrically opposed to Hagel’s than Scheunemann does. The Hagel nomination represents everything that Scheunemann stands against.

Scheunemann takes his shot: a pretty weak accusation of hypocrisy because Hagel the supposed non-interventionist supported McCain, who was willing (at least in the hypothetical) to consider ground troops in Kosovo back in the day. That’s the best he’s got?

The choice part is the petty aside he throws in now to render Hagel’s endorsement of McCain then a non-event: “His endorsement made–to put it mildly–no difference in the campaign.” I think that’s undoubtedly objectively true. But oh what a sneer.

You can see clearly here how crazy the Hagel nomination is driving Republicans, particularly the neoconservative wing of the party. They would relish a chance to go all out against Obama’s appeasing, follow-from-behind diplomacy. But Hagel’s Republicanism, his history, and his role within the party make him the perfect front man for Obama. It’s giving them fits.

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