As Chuck Hagel staggers toward the finish line of his nominating process, the only remaining question is, why? Why did Obama pick a candidate who was bound to create medium-size political headaches, yet brought him, relative to other possible nominees, no upside at all?
Josh Gerstein and Glenn Thrush try to report out the puzzle.
They find, not surprisingly, that numerous Democrats predicted all along that nominating Hagel made no sense. But Joe Biden, “a buddy and frequent travelling companion from their days together in the Senate,” passionately favored Hagel. Obama was “ticked off” by the treatment of Susan Rice, which stemmed from John McCain’s pique at her attacks on him during the 2008 campaign and desire to install buddy John Kerry in the secretary of State role instead. (Senatorial clubbiness: Is there anything it can’t screw up?)
I would argue that, if you’re really upset at the unfair attacks on Susan Rice, then nominate Susan Rice. Picking a fight on some other candidate is a pretty strange way of defending Susan Rice’s reputation.
At this point, Republicans have probably decided they’re better off with the wounded Hagel in office than they are actually filibustering his nomination to death. So they’re making the smart play of delaying the final vote for another ten days, extracting whatever additional blood they can out of the hemorrhaging nominee, and then letting him limp into his job.