Sen. Chuck Hagel addresses audience members at the nomination announcement for Hagel as the next Secretary of Defense. (Flickr / Secretary of Defense)
If President Obama is determined to select a former senator to serve as secretary of defense, the ideal pick would be someone who at the very least saw through the flimsy arguments for authorizing George Bush's war with Iraq.
That excludes Chuck Hagel, the Vietnam veteran and former Republican senator who Obama has tapped for the Pentagon post.
In 2002, as the senator from Nebraska, Hagel voted with the Bush-Cheney White House on that one, despite overwhelming evidence that the war was unnecessary and unwise, and that the pre-authorization was antithetical to the constitutional premise that wars must be declared by Congress.
Twenty-three senators -- almost a quarter of the chamber -- got the issue right. Their number included not just 21 Democrats but also a Republican (Rhode Island's Lincoln Chafee) and a former Republican serving as an independent (Vermont's Jim Jeffords). The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Michigan Democrat Carl Levin, opposed the legislation. So too did the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Florida's Bob Graham. In the House, 133 members, including six Republicans from across the ideological spectrum of the party (moderates, conservatives and libertarians) voted "no."
And in Illinois, a young state senator told a Chicago rally: