Feb 7, 2013 - By Steven R. PeckAmericans saw a big difference between cabinet nominees Kerry and Hagel
A revealing sidelight to the beginning of a president's second term is the replacement of top-level officials of the administration. When those appointees require confirmation by the Senate, the process is at its most interesting.
Followers of this system saw sharp contrast in the confirmation hearings for cabinet nominees John Kerry and Chuck Hagel.
Hagel could hardly be more different from Kerry -- for better or worse. Partly that's because of the nature of their two specialties. Kerry has just been named to the world's top diplomatic position -- United States Secretary of State. During his confirmation hearing it was clear why he was nominated for the job. He was calm, erudite and sophisticated, worldly, courteous, serious, impeccably prepared and well-informed.
Hagel is up for a different job, and he clearly is a different kind of man. Secretary of Defense used to be called by a far more blunt title, Secretary of War, and Hagel came across as a far more blunt person than Kerry. At his confirmation hearing he chose his words less carefully, argued more with his Senate interviewers, and was simply less diplomatic than Kerry.
Beyond the basic inconsistencies between the two jobs, Hagel has seemed hesitant, less informed than he might be, and, truth be told, unprepared for the confirmation process. He is a younger man than Kerry, but Hagel seemed much older during his hearing. He was unsure of himself at times and, if not exactly infirm, not exactly commanding, either.
John Kerry's confirmation hearing would have been a difficult act to follow for anyone. For Chuck Hagel, it was particularly so.
In the end, if you want an example of how to handle a confirmation hearing when you are nominated for a top cabinet post, then look no further than John Kerry's performance. It may well be cited as the gold standard for years to come.
And if you want to see how not to do it, Chuck Hagel's example is there for all to see as well.
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