Dave Weigel has the definitive post today on the Hagel nomination cock-up. He points out that Hagel himself is the only real loser here:
He botched up his confirmation hearing, giving Republicans all kinds of reasons to oppose him. (In his "no" statement, Sen. Mark Kirk, who was never undecided on Hagel, continues to pretend that Hagel's "elected" government of Iran gaffe was a window into his real thinking, as opposed to lazy verbiage.) He has to wait 12 days for the Senate to take up his nomination again. In that time, he has to endure more reports and rumors about his past speeches (nothing since "Jewish lobby" has damaged his chances so far), and he probably has to shut up, which seems difficult for him.
On the other hand, Weigel says Democrats get to portray Republicans as lunatics, which they seem to believe is going to benefit them hugely (rather than normalize lunatic behavior) while the White House gets to take credit for "hanging tough" on a nominee whose confirmation has never rally been in doubt. Win-win for them.
But holy smokes, look who's perceived as winners on the other side:
Senate Republicans have humiliated the administration, yet again, three mere weeks after filibuster reform passed. Those Republicans who grew to dislike Hagel (i.e., most of them) have humbled him. The humbling of a nominee doesn't usually stay active once the confirmation votes come in -- ask Sam Alito or Clarence Thomas -- but it's empowering, and it's pleased the Lobby Which Cannot Be Named. "The Emergency Committee for Israel salutes the Senators who courageously voted today to prevent the rubber-stamping of Chuck Hagel as the next Secretary of Defense," said Bill Kristol in a post-vote statement. Which brings me to...
The Anti-Hagelians. The scrappy, outnumbered troika of the Washington Free Beacon, Breitbart.com, and Jennifer Rubin have enabled a historic filibuster of a media darling. Rubin, who was given first crack at Ted Cruz's letter asking for a longer Hagel debate, was proven right -- Republicans Luntzified their language and claimed that they could delay Hagel without actually filibustering him.
Breitbart.com, Free Beacon and Jennifer Rubin have been empowered by this nonsense? Ok. If that's true then I am more convinced than ever that too many progressives' facile assumption (again) that the conservative movement is dead in the water is wrong. Filibustering a cabinet nominee to make a point is a bold exercise of political muscle, breaking with tradition and defying the agreement Reid made with the Republicans. They ain't done yet. And they've got a new generation of wingnuts to help them do it.