It’s likely that after all the screaming and yelling is done, Chuck Hagel will pass muster in the Senate. He will emerge from the proceedings confirmed as Secretary of Defense. But he will have been bloodied – therefore weakened – even before beginning his new job.

Hagel is a tough guy. I’m not exactly worried about him on a personal level. But I am worried about him as a professional performer. Whether he will be able to do accomplish even half the task that Obama wants and intends is an open question. Cutting the Pentagon down to size is Herculean work under optimum circumstances. Under this circumstance – the leader demeaned and diminished even before taking office – the work is obviously the more daunting.

Whatever we may think of a leader like Hagel – or for that matter, John Boehner – we should note the complexity of the context within which they are obliged to operate. In this second decade of the twenty-first century, Americans demand of their public servants that they swim in shark- infested waters.

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