Who won the Hagel/McCain Iraq War"surge" spat during the former Nebraska senator's secretary of defense confirmation hearing in on Thursday? Predictably, although both men are technically Republicans, reactions were split down party lines. Here is a roundup of blogger and columnist reactions to the hearings, which focused on one heated exchange between former senator Chuck Hagel and his once "BFF" Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
Despite once finding "common-cause in rebelling against their own party orthodoxy," McCain repeatedly badgered Hagel on his views of the 2007 troop surge in Iraq. McCain asked the former Nebraska senator whether or not he stood by his categorization of the surge as the "most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam," and then repeatedly tried to solicit a "yes" or "no" from Hagel. The nominee refused, saying, "I'm not going to give you a yes or no answer."
Liberal Steve Benen of the Maddow Blog questioned McCain's premise about the 2007 troop surge. "But the larger context is important," he says:
For McCain, the surge worked, ergo, anyone who questioned the policy is necessarily a fool who lacks credibility on foreign policy, national security, and the use of military power. In reality, conditions in Iraq may have improved in 2008 and 2009, but there were a variety of factors—including the Sunni Awakening, which pre-dated the surge, and a ceasefire announced by Shiite militia leader Muqtada Sadr—that contributed to the decline in violence. To argue that "surge = success" demonstrates a lack of depth.
Hayes Brown at the left-wing Center of American Progress agreed, saying that the surge "can't be viewed as the only cause for a reduction of violence in Iraq."
Not surprisingly, the right saw the exchange differently. Conservative blogger Ed Morrissey of Hot Air wrote that Hagel wasn't actually right about either the 2007 surge in Iraq or the Obama-driven 2009 surge in Afghanistan, which Hagel thought was a bad idea: "If Hagel got both surges so flat-out wrong, what does that say about his judgment as the man in charge of the nation's defense?" Morrissey writes. "And what does that say about the man who nominated Hagel, too?"
Conservative Paul Mirengoff of Power Line also focuses on the Afghan surge and Hagel's opposition to it. That Hagel was to the left of Obama on the Afghan surge is, Meringoff writes, "one of the frightening things about this nomination."