As the overlong saga that has been Chuck Hagel’s Secretary of Defense nomination comes to a close, it’s worth looking back on the number of ways in which conservatives predicted his impending downfall.
In addition to the many instances in which the right distorted Hagel’s record, the list of ways that these predictions turned out to be mistaken — and it is extensive — bridges conspiracy theories and cynical political calculations, attacks on character and long-standing grudges, both policy and personal. Now that the Senate has voted to break the Republican filibuster of Hagel’s nomination and he has been officially confirmed, here’s a list of some of the right wing’s more farcical predictions in its pursuit of trying to prevent Hagel from becoming the next Pentagon chief:
1. “Send us Hagel and we will make sure every American knows he is an anti-Semite.”
Before Hagel’s nomination was even officially announced, the neoconservative smear machine was gearing up to make sure Hagel would pay for opposing the war in Iraq. In the first of many stories centered around a quote from an anonymous Senate aide, the Weekly Standard quoted one as saying, “Send us Hagel and we will make sure every American knows he is an anti-Semite.”
However, the claim that Hagel is an anti-Semite effectively died soon after the Council on Foreign Relations’ Elliott Abrams lobbed it in an NPR interview, causing CFR’s President Richard Haass himself to smack the claim down. In the aftermath, only a few have dared to make the accusation directly against Hagel, instead resorting to misleading statements about his pro-Israel stance.
2. Democrats will turn on Chuck Hagel.
Politicos were speculating for weeks ahead of the announcement that the former Republican Senator would have a tough time gaining support among Democrats. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) topped several lists of those who would turn on Hagel, with non-committal comments of his blasted out by venues like The Weekly Standard.
Mainstream media got in on this idea as well, with NBC News’ Chuck Todd saying as many as ten Democrats might oppose Hagel and the National Journal writing up why Democrats don’t love him. In the end, though, it turned out that not only did Schumer announce his full support of Hagel, not a single Democrat voted against cloture for Hagel.
3. The LGBT community won’t accept Hagel.
In the days leading up to Hagel’s nomination, Republicans appeared to have found their long-lost concern for the equal rights of gays and lesbians. Hagel in 1998 said that James Hormel, then-President Bill Clinton’s nominee for Ambassador to Luxembourg, was “aggressively gay,” and thus unfit for the post. Right-wing concern trolling commenced, including Washington Post blogger Jen Rubin’s prediction that “along with the eggnog and mistletoe, Hagel will disappear after the holidays.” The attack reached its peak with the Log Cabin Republicans’ purchase of two full-page ads against Hagel.
That charge fizzled quickly, however. Hagel apologized publicly for his comments, which Hormel accepted graciously. Former staffers came out in support of Hagel, the Human Rights Campaign withdrew its complaints, and the opposition that Republicans hoped to elicit from the gay community never materialized.
4. GOP will walkout on Hagel vote.
With the Democrats unlikely to turn on Hagel, Republicans then opted to do everything they could to delay a vote on Hagel indefinitely. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) was forced to postpone moving Hagel out of committee by a hold from Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Ted Cruz (R-TX). News outlets soon reported — via more anonymous sources — that Republicans would walk out on the committee vote for Hagel. ThinkProgress learned differently, and Hagel moved out of committee with barely an incident.
5. Hagel will withdraw.
After Hagel’s confirmation hearing, Foreign Policy blogger Tom Ricks saw “50-50” odds that Hagel would withdraw. Hagel’s personal confidants said he would not withdraw his nomination and when asked about the matter, White House spokesman Jay Carney said “absolutely not.” Republicans took no chances, choosing to make history by filibustering a Defense Secretary-nominee for the first time, going against previous stances on up-or-down votes on nominees. Despite that filibuster’s obvious inability to hold, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and 14 of his colleagues still sent President Obama a letter to pull Hagel — despite still not having the votes to block confirmation.
6. Hagel’s secret speeches will sink his nomination.
Republicans and the right-wing media have been desperately hunting for nefarious speeches given by Hagel after his time in the Senate as a way to block his confirmation. One of those speeches, given before the liberal pro-Israel group J Street in 2009, was sure to be the silver bullet that ended Hagel’s nomination according to Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin. Rubin — who has written over 100 posts trying to derail Hagel — claimed that J Street was hiding the video out of fear for what it showed. J Street eventually released the video in question, which was received with a yawn by most of the world.
The right then hoped that Hagel’s long-sought after comments to the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination League would be the final nail in his coffin — the speech turned out to be a dud. A supposedly explosive comment made by Hagel, calling the State Department an “adjunct” of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, was likewise denied by a professor in attendance at the speech.
7. Hagel’s ties to the “Friends of Hamas” will end his bid.
Attempts by the likes of Sen. Cruz to insinuate that Hagel has received funding from shady sources likewise hasn’t been able to stand up to scrutiny. One such effort claimed that Hagel had the backing of a group called the “Friends of Hamas.” That claim — later revealed to have started as a joke — was spread across the right-wing before being debunked. The so-called “Friends of Hamas” doesn’t exist. In the end, Hagel survived a set of lengthy confirmation battles that in the words of Sen. Levin “far exceed” the scrutiny previous nominees have faced.
(Photo: Scripps Howard Foundation Wire)