The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


February 16, 2013

Worst week in Washington: Chuck Hagel

In the words of rock-philosopher Tom Petty, the waiting is the hardest part.

Chuck Hagel, a former Nebraska senator and President Barack Obama's pick to be the next defense secretary, is caught in a political purgatory thanks to Senate Republicans' decision to require 60 votes to move his nomination through the world's greatest deliberative body.

A vote Thursday to do just that failed — as everyone knew it would — with only four Republicans voting "yes," leaving Hagel tantalizingly close to and yet so far away from leading the Defense Department.

The Senate is out of session next week,which means Hagel has to wait at least until Feb. 25 for another chance at confirmation. While many of the Republicans who voted against ending debate on his nomination Thursday insisted that they would reverse course in 10 days' time, Hagel is now left to twist in the wind while the groups that have rallied opposition to him work overtime to unearth some disqualifying tidbit from his past.

Worst of all, Hagel really can't do much to defend himself — leaving it to his brother, Tom, to tell the media: "He's not going to walk away from this. . . . He's just going to fight harder."

Chuck Hagel, for having to sit silently while the Senate stalled, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.

This week we are going to start awarding a Worst Week honorable mention, when appropriate. The inaugural winner? Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), whose sip slip — he paused to gulp some water during his GOP response to Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday, awkwardly seeking to maintain eye contact with viewers while reaching off camera — distracted from the substance of his speech and gave late-night comedians fodder for days.

Congrats on being second worst.

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