One of President Obama’s own Iran advisers told The New York Times Thursday night that Chuck Hagel’s fumbling of the administration’s policies with regard to Iran was “somewhere between baffling and incomprehensible:”
“It’s somewhere between baffling and incomprehensible,” a member of Mr. Obama’s own team of advisers on Iran said on Thursday night when asked about Mr. Hagel’s stumbling performance on the question during the all-day hearing. The worry was evident in the voice of the official, who would not speak on the record while criticizing the performance of the president’s nominee. For those who question whether the no-containment cornerstone of the Obama approach to Tehran is for real, or just diplomatic rhetoric, Mr. Hagel clearly muddled the message, he said.
“I support the president’s strong position on containment,” he said, appearing, perhaps by imprecision, to suggest that the president’s view was that a nuclear Iran could be contained. (Mr. Obama has gone on to explain that containment would fail because other players in the neighborhood — probably led by Saudi Arabia — would race for the bomb as soon as Iran had one.)
Then an aide slipped a piece of paper to Mr. Hagel. He glanced at it, then said: “By the way, I’ve just been handed a note that I misspoke and said I supported the president’s position on containment. If I said that, it meant to say that obviously — on his position on containment — we don’t have a position on containment.”
That made it worse. So the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, tried to rescue Mr. Hagel. “Just to make sure your correction is clear, we do have a position on containment: which is we do not favor containment.”