A former Republican senator who served his country well is nominated by the president for secretary of defense, a post for which he is eminently qualified.
On its face, the confirmation hearing should be routine, uneventful and without rancor, as members of the upper house of Congress have tended to pay deference to old colleagues.
But in this particular case, the senators turn on one of their own and treat him as though he carries a plague.
Before you get too far ahead of me, I am not talking about the former senator from Nebraska, Chuck Hagel -- yet.
The statesman I'm thinking of is the late Sen. John Tower of Texas, a World War II veteran who served 23 years in the Senate before retiring and later served in special appointed roles for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Fellow Texan Bush nominated Tower for secretary of defense in 1989, but many Democrats in the Senate were determined to make the president pay for defeating Michael Dukakis in the 1988 election. They turned their venom on Tower by bringing up old charges that he drank too much, was a womanizer and was too close to the defense industry.
In the book he published shortly before his death in 1991, Consequences: a Personal and Political Memoir, Tower begins with the alphabetical roll call of his confirmation hearing for defense secretary.
It was dramatic, and an "aye" vote from Texas colleague Lloyd Bentsen, a Democrat, was a hopeful sign -- hopeful, but not enough to make a difference.
The nomination was defeated 53-47.
That was a sad day for the country, a mistake I trust the Senate is not willing to make again with a candidate who will serve with the nation's best interests in mind.
President Barack Obama's nomination of Republican Hagel for secretary of defense ought to be greeted in that spirit of bipartisanship for which so many Americans say they long. Instead, bipartisan opposition might doom this opportunity for him and the country.
Even before the announcement by the president, the character assassination of Hagel had begun, in many cases by members of his own party. Based on a handful of statements from years past, they have accused him of being anti-Israel (and therefore anti-Semitic), anti-gay, not anti-Iran enough and anti-war. The first three charges are ridiculous. The last is true in relation to the Iraq war, and he ought to be commended for it.
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, a Republican, said in a statement, "As Iran becomes increasingly hostile and gains influence in the region, the worst possible message we could send to our friend Israel and the rest of our allies in the Middle East is Chuck Hagel."
Newly elected Republican senator from Texas Ted Cruz suggested Hagel is weak, saying, "Weakness in a secretary of defense invites conflict because bullies don't respect weakness."
As the president pointed out in his nomination speech, Hagel volunteered to serve in Vietnam alongside his brother. Carrying the scars of that war, he received two Purple Hearts.
"He'd be the first person of enlisted rank to serve as Secretary of Defense, one of the few secretaries who have been wounded in war, and the first Vietnam veteran to lead the department," Obama said. "As I saw during our visits together to Afghanistan and Iraq, in Chuck Hagel our troops see a decorated combat veteran of character and strength. They see one of their own."
Obama has the reputation of wanting leaders around him who are not afraid to speak their minds, and Hagel certainly fills that bill.
With all he has done for his country, including spending 12 years in the Senate, Hagel has a long and distinguished record, and that is what he should be judged on -- not a tiny part of it, but all of it.
He should be confirmed.