I suppose there were other hot topics Mr. Hagel might have been examined on, but once his audience learned that he was going to disavow all his prior statements, why would they be interested in his new, spontaneous, unverifiable opinions now that he's facing a confirmation battle? Who listens to someone who claims he's undergone an eve-of-confirmation conversion? "Some of my Senate colleagues," wrote Ted Cruz, "may be satisfied that the pledges he has made in recent days are more meaningful than his policy record compiled over the past fifteen years. I am not." That's the problem with disavowing yourself: if your audience is paying attention, they quit listening to anything new you might want to say. You may as well cut out your own tongue.
Even Salon, which dismisses the problem as a Tea Party attack, wishes Hagel had upped his game to Clintonian levels:
Although the Texas freshman’s hit man performance was laughable, it must be said that Hagel seemed poorly prepared for his predictably rough handling. His inability to offer the shrill Lindsey Graham a single person or policy that might have been overly influenced or intimidated by “the Israel lobby,” in his controversial words, made him look dodgy. He might have presented a defense of his opposition to the 2007 Iraq surge when pushed by an ornery John McCain, but he didn’t.
I understand that he couldn’t be outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, hitting silly Republicans with her best shots and having a hell of a good time doing it. But he lost Republican votes anyway even with his non-confrontational performance, and he left an overall impression of being not quite ready for the spotlight. That doesn’t mean he’s not ready for the job, but his enemies will frame it that way.It does seem unfair, doesn't it, to expect the nation's top diplomat to be ready for the spotlight, or to keep his story straight on issues of foreign policy. But not even Carl Levin could bail him out of his spectacular faceplant on our policy regarding Iran:
Hagel also stumbled in replying to a question on Iran by Senator Saxby Chambliss (R–GA): “I support the President’s strong position on containment, as I have said.” Later, though, he was passed a note from an aide and offered a correction: “I misspoke and said I supported the President’s position on containment. If I said that, I meant to say we don’t have a position on containment.” Senator Carl Levin (D–MI) corrected him, saying, “We do have a position on containment, and that is we do not favor containment.” Levin added: “I just wanted to clarify the clarify.”Well, that's diplomatic.