[T]he conservative opposition to Hagel exceeds — in volume and intensity — almost any other national security uproar of Obama’s first term. And the criticism is more substantive than most Republican attacks on Obama’s foreign and national security policy. (At the height of the 2012 campaign, GOP candidate Mitt Romney struggled to explain how he’d handle conflicts in Afghanistan and Libya differently, except that he’d be stronger than Obama in some hard-to-define way.)Again, let's summarize here. The Democratic president needs a new secretary of defense. The president picks a Republican for the spot. The president then faces a "national security uproar" because the Republican he picked for that spot is not seen as Republican enough, with Republicans demanding the president pick someone who is more Republican.
The groups blasting Hagel’s nomination, such as the Emergency Committee for Israel, see him not just as one more data point in a flawed Obama foreign policy but as the most brazen attack yet on long-untouchable tenets of center-right foreign policy.
What would have happened if Obama nominated, heaven forfend, a Democrat? Would we have to be delivering a new truckload of smelling salts to the senate?
It's at least a little interesting that the Republican Party considers the nomination of a prominent former senate Republican to the president's cabinet to be Obama trying to snub them, or pick fights with them, or otherwise rub their noses in his recent electoral success. Presumably, the president was never going to pick a hardcore neoconservative because (1) he is not a hardcore neoconservative himself, (2) the president in general picks people he thinks he can at least vaguely get along with, ideologically, and (3) neoconservatism has been conclusively proven in recent real-world scenarios to suck. But the complaints from Republicans are explicitly that Hagel does not endorse the neoconservative checklist of how to efficiently screw up world affairs, and that's somehow an insult to them.
There's something pathological about that. It's fine and expected to be curmudgeonly after losing an election, but to see something as obviously (at least, in past years) "bipartisan" or "centrist"—staffing a top administration post with someone from the opposing side used to be the sort of thing the village op-ed voices would swoon at, so obviously bipartisan and grown-up it was—as an apparent personal insult is just, well, weird.