The lackluster performance of former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his secretary of defense nomination hearing Thursday may not have been bad enough to derail his confirmation, but it did reflect poorly on President Barack Obama, critics say.
Hagel, a Republican, faced scrutiny from fellow GOP-ers on the panel on past statements he has made about Israel and Iran and fumbled at times when trying to reconcile his comments with Obama administration positions.
"I'm sure it was deeply embarrassing for the president; I'm sure that never in their wildest imagination they thought that Hagel would perform as dismally as he did," says Danielle Pletka, vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. "He came across as a liar, worse yet, a bad liar."
Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard and a vocal opponent of the nomination, says Hagel's widely-panned showing might have nothing to do with a lack of prep by the Obama administration.
"You can have the best batting coaches in the world--but if the guy can't hit, he can't hit," he told U.S. News in an E-mail.
But Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress and former assistant secretary of defense under President Ronald Reagan, says Hagel faced a tougher than usual audience because the Senate is now more partisan.
"The objective for him was not to out-debate any of those people, it was not to annoy any more people," he says. "It was painful to watch. I think [the confirmation process] has become very personal and ideological."
Ford O'Connell, a Republican political strategist and U.S. News blogger, calls Hagel's day a "train-wreck."
"One of the things the administration likes to pride itself on also is making sure the trains can run on time in terms of management and when the person who is supposed to be executing your policy is not on the same page, it just doesn't look good overall particularly with a looming sequester," he says. "It's certainly a disjunction from Obama's personality."
Hagel does, however, likely represent the administration's position on military spending and how Middle East policy should be executed, O'Connell adds.