Two points seem to me under-appreciated in Dkos discussion of the Hagel nomination:
1. Wedges & zero sum politics
2. Picking the time for policy debates
Wedges & zero sum politics: Kossacks are generally very clear that
(a) the Republicans have adopted a zero-sum scorched earth strategy that assumes they will benefit from anything they can do to weaken Democrats, and
(b) even before Republicans’ extremism of recent years, they frequently and skillfully used wedge issues to divide and weaken Democrats.
Then why is there so little appreciation of the way that Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel is a wedge that throws an anchor to Republicans’ drowning image and unity? The London-based Financial Times sums this up neatly as follows:
The Hagel confirmation hearings could turn out to be the foreign policy equivalent of the fiscal cliff for Republicans – a moment that dramatises the gaping divisions within its ranks and the rightward lurch while helping to paint it into politically treacherous positions. (Source: http://www.ft.com/...)Trying and failing to block Hagel's confirmation will damage the Republicans (lowering their reputation on national security issues, as has already been done on fiscal issues) and will thereby reduce their ability to win elections against, and block policies of, Democrats and Progressives.
Picking the time for policy debates: When is the best time to debate the merits of policy decisions such as
(a) escalating or deescalating tensions with Iran, and
(b) reducing expectations that the US will mute its opposition to any Netanyahu action no matter how detrimental to peace prospects?
Often such debates become front-burner issues at a moment of crisis triggered by accidents or deliberate actions by players like Iran and Israel. This type of timing gives Republicans maximum opportunity to indulge in scare-mongering, which the Executive Branch has little time to overcome.
If NeoCons and other Republicans publicize their scare-mongering arguments during the Hagel confirmation process, after which Hagel is confirmed, then, at the time of any future crisis, when these arguments are recycled, Obama and Hagel will be able to swat them aside as “old arguments that were considered and rejected by the Senate when confirming Hagel”.
As for cuts in military spending, although policies are not typically decided in such urgent crisis mode, the Pentagon will probably be more deferential to cost-control directives made by a Defense Secretary whose views on cost-control have already survived Senate scrutiny.