In the Arena

McCain v Hagel

John McCain's first round interrogation of Chuck Hagel was more about personal pique and histrionics than it was about elucidating Hagel's views. It was a foolish and demeaning exercise.

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John McCain’s first round interrogation of Chuck Hagel was rude and uncouth, but Hagel’s answer wasn’t quite satisfactory, either.

Hagel opposed the 2007 Iraq surge, which played a large part in the ultimate stabilization of that country–at least, to the point where we were able to leave. McCain demanded to know whether Hagel now thought the surge was a good or bad thing. Hagel tried to answer; McCain interrupted him, demanding a yes or no. Hagel tried to put it in context, saying that the war in Iraq had been our worst foreign policy mistake since Vietnam; McCain again pushed for a yes or no. Hagel, rightly, refused to give a yes or no.

So let’s put this in perspective: Hagel is absolutely correct on the big picture. Iraq was a disastrous, irresponsible decision (although Hagel voted for it, then quickly came to his senses). McCain has been dead wrong on the big picture–fabulously wrong, since he opposed our leaving Iraq, even after the situation stabilized. But he’s right about the surge: it helped stabilize Baghdad at the same time as the Army, under General Petraeus, was having success in turning Sunni tribes away from Al Qaeda in Iraq.

It might be useful at this point–almost 10 years after George W. Bush made the dreadful decision to go to war–to have an intelligent conversation about how we could make such a terrible mistake. It would also be useful to have a conversation about the surge, about how the Petraeus counterinsurgency strategy affected the tamping down of violence. But McCain’s questioning was more about personal pique and histrionics than it was about elucidating Hagel’s views. It was a foolish and demeaning exercise.

For the transcript between Hagel and McCain, see Michael Scherer’s article.

29 comments
notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

The "surge" worked so darn well, I am enjoying greatly the cheap oil coming from Iraq!  Hagel was right in the first place.

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

I cannot fathom why anyone cares what McCain or Lindsay Graham think or say.  Paraphrasing Hillary, the R's don't let any kind of evidence influence them.

marsattacks64
marsattacks64

Republicans always trying to take credit for the surge has always struck me as a person trying to take credit for fixing someone else's car after they crashed it.  You break it, you buy it.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

Between McCain and Inhofe it's like the republicans WANT to be not taken seriously.

It's a curious ground to stake out. 

JimStarowicz
JimStarowicz

Brother, Vietnam vet, Mac still trying to rovian revisionist history, and show he and the rest, including much of the country, were right on Abandoning the military and the main missions of Afghanistan as they beat the drums of war on extremely ginned up intelligence and invaded and destroyed Iraq creating more hatreds and easy recruitment for blowback in Afghanistan and destroyed National Security costing us billions more with none of that paid for as well as neither war and Especially the results of and the countries responsibility the Veterans Administration!

And as to Ms. Lindsey: "How many private citizens did you arrogantly demand sign your letter, in public and surprisingly in a Senate hearing of all places, about Israel besides private citizen 'Nam brother Hagel?"  I'd love to get jag Graham's military records on all in did while in uniform especially related to the grunts and sailors and from In Country War, he rubber stamps, Theaters!!

petersen
petersen

Republican partisanship on steroids is destroying everything that's good and right in America today. How dare this pack of trolling extremists denigrate and tear down the character and reputation of an American hero like Chuck Hagel. The display by these GOP hacks at this Senate hearing was astonishing, and for what? Hagel's service on the field of battle and in the public arena makes him more than qualified for defense secretary. Republicans have no principles to stand on in their evisceration of Hagel considering he was being touted as cabinet material by the likes of John McCain only a few years ago. These small-minded hyper-partisans ought to ashamed of themselves. -  progressive 

BarentWagar
BarentWagar

The surge didn't do shit.  Bribing the various factions that had been busy killing our soldiers to stop killing our soldiers is the only thing that made things "better" in Iraq.

DanBruce
DanBruce

McCain is once again a prisoner held captive, this time by his own damaged ego.

IAmafreeman
IAmafreeman

Try to get McCain, or ANY politician to answer a political question of any importance with a "yes" or a "no".  Good luck with that.

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

Of course Hagel's answer was unsatisfactory - he wasn't allowed to give it.

I would've loved to have heard his full position.  I think the surge helped - I suspect but cannot substantiate that the Anbar Awakening was helped to succeed by the surge as much as the surge was helped to succeed by the Anbar Awakening - and I think the stabilization of Iraq in a short timeframe was good for the long run, but it's always good to hear the arguments of those who disagree with you and understand why they do.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

Well any run-of-the-mill Senator could listen to an answer from a nominee, it takes a maverick to make it about himself.

I only hope McCain gets some chance, somewhere, to further his point. I wonder if a Sunday morning show might book him.

Sue_N
Sue_N

"But McCain’s questioning was more about personal pique and histrionics than it was about elucidating Hagel’s views."

This is John McCain in a nutshell, isn't it? Whatever interest in serving anyone but himself he might once have had is gone now, and has been for years. All he has now is his bitterness, his anger and his pathetic need for attention.

Hagel is right - it doesn't matter who was right and wrong on the surge. The whole effing war was wrong, and that's what matters.

HudsonValleyTim
HudsonValleyTim

Once again, McCain demonstrates very clearly that he has traded-in his honor for the fealty of the GOP righties.  Things go right, and things go wrong...and it's easy to sort-out the best approaches in hindsight.  I wonder how John McCain would answer the myriad of questions regarding his spectacularly-flawed execution of a presidential campaign.

sacredh
sacredh

"McCain demanded to know whether Hagel now thought the surge was a good or bad thing. Hagel tried to answer; McCain interrupted him, demanding a yes or no."

.

I wonder if McCain has ever heard of the word "nuance"? Some questions can't be answered by a simple yes or no. McCain lacks the ability to understand or to hear something that he doesn't agree with. Did the surge work? Obviously, it was successful at the time in making the situation better. Should we have been there in the first place? I think that answer is no. Should we ever have been in the position where a surge was necessary to svalge a situation that we shouldn't have been in in the first place? I think that answer is also no. Thousands of lives lost, many more forever changed for the worse and trillions of dollars wasted.  If we love our wives, they're beautiful to us. Are all of our wives actually beautiful by a superficial definition? No. How could you answer a question like "Is your wife beautiful?" Is a simple yes or no sufficient.

PerryWhite1
PerryWhite1

NOW can we begin ignoring John McCain? He's an arrogant, small-minded fool and I'm sick of seeing him on my teevee machine.

tkulaga
tkulaga

How many airplanes did McCain crash BEFORE going to Viet Nam?

S_Deemer
S_Deemer

Just speculation, but McCain was a naval officer, while Hagel was an army grunt, and I'm wondering if inter-service rivalry could have anything to do with McCain's attitude. Years ago, I watched the film, The Last Detail in Monterey, CA, and the audience participation (from Fort Ord) made the film a lot more entertaining.

SteveZStein
SteveZStein

"McCain’s questioning was more about personal pique and histrionics than it was about elucidating Hagel’s views."

Dog bites man.  When is McCain's questioning NOT about personal pique and histrionics?  (And it's unfair to limit this observation to McCain - it's true in general in every confirmation hearing I can remember.)

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

@reallife 

So basically, after not letting Hagel give a complete answer on the surge, McCain asks Hagel why he doesn't support invading Syria.  Beautiful

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@reallife Last time I checked Iraq is still a failed state, so exactly why did we sacrifice all the extra blood and treasure?

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@forgottenlord The Villagers love the "surge worked" narrative but the trouble is, it's impossible to tease it's effectiveness from all of the other factors that led to a less violent Iraq:

"In truth, a number of key social and political shifts occurred in Iraq in 2006 and 2007, which coincided with the US surge. There was the decision by Sunni militias to turn against al-Qaida in Iraq, a group that was responsible for initiating much of the country's horrifying violence in 2006; there was the ethnic cleansing and enclaving that took place in Baghdad, which turned a once Sunni-dominated city into one controlled by Shiites, and gave both sides in the civil war fewer individuals to seek out and slaughter; there was the mass exodus of refugees out of the country; and later, there was the Sadr ceasefire.

What's more, those who pushed the Iraq surge narrative suggested that a more humane and civilian-focused approach there had brought success. In reality, the number of civilians killed by US airstrikes had increased nearly four-fold in Iraq; the number of Iraqis in detention jumped 50%. This is not to suggest Petraeus deserves no credit; he smartly took advantage of these larger shifts in Iraqi society to seek an endgame to the conflict.

But the reality is that much of the decline in violence attributed to the actions of US forces was the result of decisions and actions taken by the Iraqis themselves. The US role was important, but hardly decisive."

Hagel was right to question the Iraq surge and it did indeed prove to be a "dangerous foreign policy blunder" in Afghanistan. Though McCain was also mostly right when it said that it was obvious that the surge turned things around to "any casual observer." 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/13/general-david-petraeus-flaw-surge-afghanistan

grape_crush
grape_crush

> ...the Anbar Awakening was helped to succeed by the surge as much as the surge was helped to succeed by the Anbar Awakening...

Exactly, although I would lean toward the latter. Not that any politician can actually say that it was the Iraqi factions that were fighting US forces that were more responsible for the de-escalation of violence in Iraq.

> I suspect but cannot substantiate...

I look at the timing of the surge in 2007 versus the creation of the Awakening Council in 2006, and  the sudden drop in troop deaths in August-September 2007 when Iraqi political leader Muqtada al-Sadr agreed to call a cease-fire.

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

@Paul,nnto If only President McCain could get on a Sunday morning show. It would certainly be a breath of fresh air to hear his well reasoned and considered opinions. Too bad he has no chance.

IAmafreeman
IAmafreeman

You have it correct, Sue.  I quit having any positive feelings for him during his second potus campaign where he blew-off a well-wisher when leaving the auditorium - few have seen this tape.  Also when he - AS A GROWN MAN - bullied a 12 year-old boy (Leonardo DiCaprio) by calling him "an androgenous wimp."

What real man says such a thing about a developing young boy?  

Watch for more of this from his daughter when she runs and gets elected.  The entire family is a gang of elitist pricks.

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

@PerryWhite1 Only Sunday teevee program I have watched in years apart from Sunday Morning is Up with Chris. I actually record that so I can watch Sunday Morning and FF through Up if they get stuck in the muck. Therefore, I have mercifully not seen John McCain since he gave his concession speech!

IAmafreeman
IAmafreeman

Deemer,  I can only imagine!!!  Pretty gritty story!

Sue_N
Sue_N

@S_Deemer I don't think this has anything to do with inter-service rivalries. I think it has everything to do with McCain needing to hear Hagel say out loud that McCain was right and he was wrong. It's all bout ego with McCain.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

@shepherdwong @forgottenlord Shep, of course, is correct. This post is as much about JK's love of the surge as McCain v Hagel. 

They think the "success" of the surge wipes clean the stain of supporting a disastrous war of choice. They are mistaken.