Until his confirmation hearings, I had believed that after intensive and harsh questioning, former Sen. Chuck Hagel would be confirmed as President Obama's choice for the next secretary of defense. I do not believe anyone could have anticipated the catastrophic performance of the nominee before the Senate Armed Services Committee while on the international stage ("Panetta defends Hagel, criticizes GOP questioning," Web, Sunday). It was a performance that stunned even officials of the administration.
Mr. Hagel acknowledged that there are key foreign policy issues with which he is not familiar, and he promised to study these before beginning his new position. Most astonishingly, however, he misspoke when attempting to convey the Obama administration's position and, presumably, his own position, on whether Iran can be contained if and when it produces a nuclear weapon. After this gaffe, an aide presented Mr. Hagel with a card which, after reading, the nominee announced had informed him that he had misspoken. It is widely believed that Iran took significant notice of the Hagel spectacle.
Many thought the worst Mr. Hagel had to fear from Senate questioners were his reference to "the Jewish lobby" and his expressed disdain for homosexuals. It turns out his problems run far deeper. If Chuck Hagel is confirmed to be secretary of defense, he will have beaten long odds.
OREN M. SPIEGLER
Upper St. Clair, Pa.
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