What They Said About Hagel’s Confirmation

-By Warner Todd Huston

Strangely, the Old Media establishment seemed to move on quite quickly after former Senator Chuck Hagel was confirmed as the new Secretary of Defense on the evening of February 26. Aside from the perfunctory stories of his confirmation, the media didn’t seem much interested in widespread analysis of what it all meant. It was as if few media outlets felt there was much news in the whole thing

However, there were a few horn-tooters happily proclaiming Obama’s victory.

For the Washington Post, columnist Dana Milbank felt that the whole confirmation process was one “Joe McCarthy would have admired.”

All the anti-Hagel points, Milbank thought, were built only on “innuendos” and “hoaxes.”

The New Yorker’s Alex Koppelman claimed that all opposition to Hagel was just a right-wing “tantrum.”

As far as Koopleman was concerned, this confirmation was an example of GOP “petulance.”

“It was a futile display, but it was fitting, too, as a glimpse of what the G.O.P.’s legislative strategy has become in the Obama era: not governing but petulance,” he wrote.

Typical of The New York Times was the pre-confirmation article by Jeremy Peters. Harping on the supposed unprecedented filibustering of a nomination for Secretary of Defense, Peters, like many in the Old Media establishment plying this talking point, never mentioned that the nomination of John Tower for SecDef was completely torpedoed by Senate Democrats in 1989 he was nominated by George H.W. Bush.

For The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf chose to use the occasion of Hagel’s confirmation as an avenue by which to attack a conservative pundit he doesn’t like. In a long piece, Friedersdorf went hammer and tong after Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post seemingly trying to discredit every word she wrote about Hagel.

For New York magazine, Dan Amira took a similar tact as Mr. Friedersdorf with a piece helpfully entitled, “You Were Wrong: Chuck Hagel Edition.”

The National Journal went to the aide of Senator Hagel calling him a “strategic thinker” that should be hailed.

As to The Nation, Mark Thompson declared Hagel’s opponents were beset by self-inflicted wounds. To be fair, though, The Nation did note that Hagel came to the role just as wounded and was in a bad spot for trying to get the acceptance of all the Republicans who opposed him right when his work of paring down the Pentagon needed as much support as possible.

Unfortunately, there was also a lot of Israel bashing upon Hagel’s confirmation.

In Foreign Policy, Stephen M.Walt felt that Hagel’s nomination only proved the evils of the “Israel lobby.”

John B. Judis of the New Republic also called out the Jewish lobby for opposing Hagel and also felt that Hagel’s love of big government was a feature not a bug. Hagel is not “knee-jerk anti-government,” Judis said approvingly.

Finally, for the Daily Beast, Brent E. Sasley said that the Hagel fight was a “disaster” for Israel, not because Hagel was finally nominated, but because Israel shouldn’t want the spotlight put on herself during an American political fight. It would cause unwanted attention, Sasley contended.

So, as Chuck Hagel rode off to his new office, not many in the Old Media paid much attention to the end of the contentious nomination fight. But those that did proclaimed it a major black eye for Republicans and proof of the evils of the Israel lobby.
“The only end of writing is to enable the reader better to enjoy life, or better to endure it.”
–Samuel Johnson

Warner Todd Huston is a Chicago based freelance writer. He has been writing opinion editorials and social criticism since early 2001 and before that he wrote articles on U.S. history for several small American magazines. His political columns are featured on many websites such as Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com, BigHollywood.com, and BigJournalism.com, as well as RightWingNews.com, RightPundits.com, CanadaFreePress.com, StoptheACLU.com, AmericanDaily.com, among many, many others. Mr. Huston is also endlessly amused that one of his articles formed the basis of an article in Germany’s Der Spiegel Magazine in 2008.

For a full bio, please CLICK HERE.

Copyright Publius Forum 2001