Hagel has since apologized for past comments he made in which he described a potential U.S. ambassador as “openly, aggressively gay.” (Side note: How do you know when a man is “aggressively gay”? Do you have to spot him in a slap fight over the last non-fat pumpkin-spiced latte?)
Either way, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, fairly liberal, and National Review Editor Rich Lowry, fairly conservative, agree: Hagel is “out of the mainstream.”
For Lowry, that disqualifies Hagel as a nominee for defense secretary. He wrote in Politico last week:
A self-styled foreign policy realist, Hagel is out of the mainstream and terminally naive. …
It would be one thing if Hagel were merely what he so often seemed when he was a regular on the Sunday talk shows — a tiresome purveyor of conventional wisdom overly impressed with his own seriousness. That would make him no different than about 90 other senators. It’s that his realism is so profoundly unrealistic and bizarrely skewed.
But for Friedman, it’s a quality the Obama administration (not often accused of being too “mainstream”) needs:
[B]ecause he has rather bluntly stated that his job as a U.S. senator was not to take orders from the Israel lobby but to advance U.S. interests, he is smeared as an Israel-hater at best and an anti-Semite at worst. If ever Israel needed a U.S. defense secretary who was committed to Israel’s survival, as Hagel has repeatedly stated — but who was convinced that ensuring that survival didn’t mean having America go along with Israel’s self-destructive drift into settling the West Bank and obviating a two-state solution — it is now. …
So, yes, Hagel is out of the mainstream. That is exactly why his voice would be valuable right now. President Obama will still make all the final calls, but let him do so after having heard all the alternatives.