Hagel Hearing: Carl Levin Shrinks the Aperture

Former US Senator Chuck Hagel (R), US President Barack Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, greets committee member Sen. Carl Levin,D-MI, as he arrives for his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on January 31, 2013.

Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Before the Hagel hearing began, the Center for American Freedom—the action-oriented think tank that grew out of the Weekly Standard—passed out a one-page fact sheet. It was titled, in all caps, THE REAL CHUCK HAGEL, and it reminded reporters of everything from the Jewish Lobby quote to Hagel refusing to disagree with an interview that called the U.S. “the world’s bully.”

Sen. Carl Levin, the Armed Services chairman who’s shrugged off the various Hagel “controversies,” used his opening statement to legitimize only a few of them.

“Senator Hagel has stated that unilateral sanctions against Iran ‘are exactly the wrong approach,’ and that the ‘worst thing we can do’ is try to isolate Iran,” said Levin. “Another statement which has raised concern is Senator Hagel’s recommendation that we conduct ‘direct, unconditional, and comprehensive talks with the government of Iran.’” In both cases, Levin stressed that he’d let Hagel explain himself; he could also explain “troubling statements he has made about Israel and its supporters in the United States, a statement in 2008 that our policy of non-engagement with the Syrians ‘has isolated us more than the Syrians,’ and a 2009 statement that we should not isolate Hamas.”

And that was it—no LGBT, no climate, nothing that has been (pretty transparently) used to try to irritate Democrats.