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Will 'toxic intolerance' deprive Hagel of a cabinet post?
Chuck Hagel wasn't the most popular choice for Secretary of Defense, from either the right or the left.
First, he had to disavow some of his remarks in opposition to the nomination of gay-rights advocate James Hormel, heir to the Hormel Foods fortune, as an ambassador, to gain grudging approval from the left.
In the coming weeks, he will have to explain his criticism of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the right, as well as his opposition to unilateral sanctions against Iran and what is seen as his weak support of Israel.
While he is a Republican, his endorsement of Bob Kerrey for Senate won't go unnoticed by the woman who defeated Kerrey, Deb Fischer, who joined Sen. Mike Johanns in promising a "thorough and fair" confirmation hearing.
"I plan to closely review Senator Hagel's record and look forward to meeting with him to discuss his views on America's role in an increasingly dangerous world," Sen. Fischer said in a release. "As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I will also have the opportunity to publicly question Senator Hagel during his confirmation hearing in the coming weeks. This process will be thorough and fair, and I look forward to participating in it."
Johanns was kinder, saying "Chuck Hagel's military career is nothing short of admirable and while he has been a long-time friend, we do have very different opinions on many very important issues. Now that he has been nominated, he has an obligation to elaborate on his past statements and fully explain his positions during what I expect to be a thorough and fair confirmation hearing."
Hagel earned two Purple Hearts as an infantry squad leader in Vietnam, and earned million as a co-founder of an early cell phone company Vanguard Cellular.
He was one of the few Republican senators to back Sen. John McCain as a presidential candidate instead of George W. Bush in 2000, and opposed the 30,000-troop "surge" Bush sent to Iraq, and called Iraq one of the five monumental blunders in history.
His independence should strike a familiar chord with residents of McCook, home of Sen. George W. Norris. Norris was one of only six senators to vote against declaration of war on Germany in 1917, saying war benefitted only "munition manufacturers, stockbrokers and bond dealers" and vehemently opposed and defeated the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations in 1919.
Norris' independence finally cost him his seat in 1942, when he could not gain the support of the Democrats.
Although Hagel's wife, Lillibet, donated to Obama's campaign in 2008 and again last year, Hagel has said the president's health care law was his "biggest mistake," robbing Obama of "a good amount of his political capital and goodwill going in."
Hagel complained to the National Journal in 2011 that "a dangerous, toxic intolerance of other people's opinions" had tainted American politics.
The coming nomination hearings should reveal just how toxic that intolerance has become.