The Hagel Choice: An 'Amish Give Up' Moment for Obama?

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I've mentioned several times the greatest and most instructive Onion headline of all time:


AMISH GIVE UP
'This is bullshit,' Elders Say

Back during the debt-ceiling follies of 2011, I hoped, wished, and urged that President Obama would lay down a "this is bullshit" marker. He didn't do it then; as everyone now understands, mainly for better but occasionally for worse such ultimatums go against his nature. 

But to his credit, the president now seems ready to say "this is bullshit" about the de-legitimization campaign being waged against former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as his choice for secretary of defense. It was waged odiously, in a way that deserves to be remembered, by Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal:

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And by William Kristol and his writers at The Weekly Standard:

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And weirdly by the Washington Post's editorialists, who warned Obama that Hagel considered the Pentagon budget "bloated" (!) and was generally too much of a leftie for the job. 

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So as not to be wholly negative, Hagel's critics have helpfully informed us that Paul Wolfowitz considers someone else a better choice. Were Dick Cheney and Paul Bremer not available for advice?

As Steve Clemons and Robert Wright, among others, have reported, much of the foreign policy establishment reacted in support of Hagel, and in revulsion against these attacks. The "establishment," in this case, took the form of: five former U.S. ambassadors to Israel; four former national security advisers to presidents of both parties; many of Hagel's fellow combat veterans from Vietnam; and assorted Democratic and Republican Senators and Representatives. This evening Fred Kaplan, of Slate, has an excellent round-up of the arguments against Hagel and why they are craven or wrong. (Also this strong piece, late last month, from Bernard Avishai.)

But the real question all along has been the president. Is this a fight he would engage, or one he would look for a way to avoid? If, as seems all but certain, he is about to nominate Hagel, that is a heartening sign. "'This is bullshit,' president says."
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Update: Of many analyses out today, I suggest you start with this one by Peter Beinart. Also see: Scott McConnell in The American Conservative.
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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