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

By James Fallows
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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.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/01/the-hagel-choice-an-amish-give-up-moment-for-obama/266871/