Posted by on March 01, 2013 in Blog

On Wednesday, we brought you a list of six Washington figures that thoroughly embarrassed themselves during the saga of Chuck Hagel’s nomination to head the Defense Department. But the news was not all bad. Some in Washington, both journalists and politicians, had the common sense to see Hagel for what he was: a decorated war veteran with policy views well within the American mainstream. We’ve recognized some of those who distinguished themselves during this process below.

Dave Weigel, Slate

After’s Ben Shapiro published a story claiming that Hagel had received payments from a group called “Friends of Hamas,” Weigel was the first to expose a small hole in the juicy story: “Friends of Hamas” did not exist. Later in the month, he gave Shapiro an opportunity to walk back his story after it was revealed that the “Friends of Hamas” rumors had been started by the sarcastic musings of a fellow journalist. Instead, Shapiro stood behind the story. Weigel’s criticism of the loose standards of far-right-wing media outlets was spot on, and the Hagel drama was a perfect illustration of the dangers of reporting rumor and innuendo as fact.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) 

When President Obama’s intention to nominate Hagel was first floated in the press, he faced nearly immediate and predictable criticism from Republicans. He could still be confirmed without Republican support, but without the blessing of Senate Democrats, his nomination would have stood little chance. So when Schumer, one of the most influential Jewish members of the Senate, blessed Hagel’s nomination in mid-January, it gave cover to other like-minded Democrats like Kristen Gillibrand, Robert Menendez, and Ben Cardin to support him as well. From that point forward, it was clear Hagel would be confirmed despite Republican protests.  

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Mark Udall (D-CO) 

The Senate Armed Services Committee’s nomination hearing was rightly pilloried for its disproportionate focus on Israel at the expense of important issues that Hagel would actually control. These three senators raised these issues. Udall secured a commitment from Hagel to continue to make the military open to homosexuals after the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Sens. Blumenthal and Gillibrand raised the issue of the unacceptably high numbers of sexual assaults in the military, asking Hagel to continue working with them to address the crisis.

17 Republicans Voting For Cloture

For a while, it seemed as if Senate Republicans might filibuster Hagel’s nomination until his “secret terrorist ties” were revealed, so this vote to allow his nomination to come up for a vote was an important step towards his confirmation as well as a sign that some taboos against obstructionism remain in the Senate. Only four Republicans voted for his confirmation, but at least these 17 respected the prerogative for a President's nominees to receive a simple vote.

President Barack Obama

As president, Obama has not always forcefully supported potential nominees for cabinet posts, as in the case of Susan Rice’s abortive candidacy for Secretary of State. He also has a history of bowing to pressure from right-wing pro-Israel groups, many of which were vocal in opposing Hagel. This time, however, Obama forcefully backed Hagel and stood up to the disinformation campaign from the pro-Israel campaign. One hopes this is a sign of things to come in his second term.

Chuck Hagel

Last, but certainly not least, is Hagel himself.  This one should be obvious: for putting up with this ridiculous circus in order to once again serve his country. 

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