Thursday, January 31, 2013

Is Hagel Smart Enough?

The vexing question about Obama’s nominee for Defense Secretary is not his political beliefs, history or sincerity but one that dares not speak its name directly: Does he have the intellect to manage a complex, critical enterprise in a time of change?

As John McCain and others attack while bipartisan figures from the past endorse him, Chuck Hagel calls to mind JFK’s dictum, “You can’t beat brains,” along with David Halberstam’s classic “The Best and the Brightest,” the story of how brilliant Defense Secretary Robert McNamara led a coterie of Ivy League high IQs into bungling the Vietnam war, in which Hagel served as a twice-wound enlisted man.

For his early opposition to the Iraq invasion, the nominee earns high points, and it’s hard to doubt the personal qualities of one who has earned the scorn of fellow Republicans for being right about that disastrous chapter. But does he qualify to oversee a crucial organization?

With the departure of Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta, the braininess level of the Obama administration has gone down. John Kerry is bright enough, but those who recall what Karl Rove et al did to him in 2004 would not credit him with political genius. What the President needs in his second term is a cadre of key advisers who won’t bungle him into extraneous side issues. How do Kerry and Hagel rate on that score?

As confirmation grilling continues, the fair-minded should be less interested in Chuck Hagel’s views on the Iraq Surge, Israel or gays in the military, but the quality of mind he would bring to the Department of Defense, the subtlety of understanding to deal with a labyrinth of high-stakes conflict in the armed forces and those who profit from it.  

To put it bluntly, is Hagel smart enough for the job?
Acumen counts.


spodvoll said...

Dear Mr. Stein,

I am a fan. I agree with you well over ninety percent of the time. However, I do have a problem with your recent post regarding Chuck Hagel. First of all, we Democrats don't need to be helping those across the aisle who wish to Bork us. Secondly and more to the point, as fellow *enlisted* men, you, me, and those like us need to give brother Chuck a break. Everybody has an off day. Let's not jerk our knees over it.

Thank you,

spodvoll said...

P.S. let's not forget the most important factor, even when dealing with the "best and brightest" is the guy at the top, as LBJ so deftly proved.

Linda C said...

apparently yes. He was well thought of at Georgetown where he had been a visiting professor. Read the article on my blog feeds somewhere.

Now McCain and Graham?? doddering fools.

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

Does Chuck Hagel have the acumen, you ask? He has the acumen to stand against the abrasive badgering of McPain and Company, and we should not equate "low key" with weakness. Hagel demonstrated acumen when he was a lone voice speaking against a sham war when others in the GOP toed the party line. A moderate Republican willing to work in a Democratic administration stands in sharp contrast to other Republicans who refuse to work at all - and this alone accounts for the bellicosity of McPain and Company who have made themselves appear petty and puny.