Chuck Hagel is resigning as defense secretary under pressure from the White House. As Dave Weigel notes, John McCain is vigorously defending Hagel:
In a morning interview with NewsTalk 550, McCain struck back at the idea that Hagel was incompetent, or that he was the problem with the administration.This is not how McCain was talking about Hagel when Hagel was seeking confirmation in the Senate:
"I just talked to him," said McCain. "They're gonna say, well, it was time for a change. Well, let me tell you. He was in my office last week. He was very frustrated. We have no strategy."
... "Believe me," said McCain, "he was up to the job."
... Anyone who watched Hagel's confirmation hearings last January might be surprised to hear this. When Hagel was in his final term as a Nebraska senator, he vehemently opposed the Bush administration's Iraq strategy. He opposed McCain when the Arizonan argued, successfully, for a troop surge in Iraq. At the 2013 hearings, McCain lit into Hagel. "Were you correct or incorrect when he said the surge would be the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam?" asked McCain, as Hagel sputtered.But I think Weigel is overthinking this, seeing it as a strategic tack Republicans didn't want to take at the time of Hagel's confirmation:
Now, McCain was separating Hagel from the Obama administration. You can see why. At the start of 2013, when Hagel was confirmed, Gallup could credibly run a story titled "Obama Rated Highest on Foreign Affairs, Lowest on Deficit." ...So McCain is "separating Hagel from the Obama administration" now, after not doing so in 2013, because Obama now has low foreign policy ratings?
In 2013 and 2014, public approval of the Obama administration's foreign policy tumbled and never recovered. In the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll it sunk under 50 percent in August 2013, and never recovered; it's currently at 38 percent....
So why would those Republicans let Obama turn Chuck Hagel into a fall guy?
Nahhh. McCain hates everything Obama does. When Obama appointed Hagel, it was bad, and now that Obama has effectively canned Hagel, that's bad. Obama could have just killed the head of ISIS with his bare hands and McCain would still denounce him on foreign policy. (He and other Republicans certainly didn't defer to public approval of Obama on foreign policy in early 2013 -- only four Senate Republicans voted to confirm Hagel.)
To McCain, the enemy is not overseas. Obama is the enemy. Critics of Republican policy are the enemy. Obama could do everything McCain recommends, and he'd still be the enemy, because, well, he's the enemy.