In the not-so-proud tradition of Washington, Hagel is paying dearly not only for speaking his mind in the past but for his prescience in defying his own president, George W. Bush, during the course of the decade-long "war on terror." But Hagel only fed his opponents' ambitions with a strikingly weak performance at his confirmation hearing, where he fumbled over several questions, including whether he supported "containment" against Iran.And now Hagel faces the prospect of becoming the first Defense nominee in U.S. history to be filibustered. Should he overcome the 60-vote majority needed to end such a filibuster, he is all but assured of confirmation. The Democrats who control the Senate have 55 votes in favor, and two Republicans have said, up until now, that they will vote for Hagel: Mike Johanns of Nebraska and Thad Cochran of Mississippi.But getting to 60 votes is looking harder right now than it did just a few days ago, especially with moderates such as Susan Collins, R-Maine, saying they oppose Hagel. And the longer the process plays out, the higher a political price the president will pay for sticking with Hagel.
There's another proud tradition of sticking with past stands. Hagel's strikingly weak performance rooted in Hagel's efforts to dodge responsibility for what he beleived and advocated. Dragging in any defiance of George Bush can't distract from Hagel's fumbles.