McFeatters: Chuck Hagel now likely to be confirmed, rightly
Washington is full of surprises and it would truly be a surprise, rising to the level of a shock, if former GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel was not confirmed as secretary of defense, likely next week.
"He's probably as good as we're going to get," he told a home-state newspaper.
Two other Republican senators -- Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Mike Johanns of Nebraska -- are already on record as in favor of letting the nomination go forward. Two more -- Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska -- have indicated that they will do likewise.
In a last-ditch attempt to derail the nomination, 15 GOP senators wrote to President Barack Obama urging him to withdraw it. While getting 15 senators to agree on anything is impressive, that is still only one-third of the Republican caucus, suggesting this is not an issue the party is willing to go to the barricades for.
One of Hagel's harshest Republican opponents, Sen. John McCain, Ariz., said he would not stand in the way of the nomination.
When the smoke clears and Hagel is confirmed, the voters can be forgiven for asking, "What was that all about?"
True, Hagel's appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee was alarmingly underwhelming, but the substantive objections to his nomination were largely beside the point. He was not in government when the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi was attacked, which is in any case a problem for the State Department, not the Pentagon.
His views on Israel and Iran, which appear to still be evolving, are out of the Republican mainstream, but our policy toward those two countries also falls within the purview of State.
Now, if the Senate can only gets its act together long enough to confirm John Brennan to head the CIA.
Dale McFeatters is a syndicated columnist for the Scripps Howard News Service.