There are enough votes in the Senate to confirm Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary, the Associated Press' Donna Cassata reports, signaling an end to a loud fight that that always seemed a little fake. Even John McCain, who aggressively questioned Hagel and who last week voted to filibuster in an attempt to get more information on Benghazi, had said his confirmation was a foregone conclusion. By the A.P.'s count, the vote of Alabama Republican Richard Shelby, who was quoted in today's Decatur Daily as saying, "He's probably as good as we're going to get," makes enough votes to break the filibuster that held up Hagel's nomination before the Senate went out on recess. Along with all 55 Democrats, Hagel now has the support of three Republicans — Shelby plus Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Mike Johanns of Hagel's homestate Nebraska — and two more Republicans who will vote against the filibuster — Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
The fake fight over Hagel looked especially ridiculous after Slate's Dave Weigel noticed that Friends of Hamas, a group Hagel was attacked for maybe getting funding from, was fake. And then New York Daily News reporter Dan Friedman wrote that he was pretty sure he inadvertently started the Friends of Hamas rumor in an email joke. Friedman asked a Republican senate aide if Hagel had any controversial connections and used, as fake examples, "Friends of Hamas" and "the Junior League of Hezbollah." (Neither group exists, for the record.) But somehow the joke ended up reported as a scoop by Breitbart News and picked up elsewhere. When asked if Hagel would withdraw his nomination Thursday, White House press secretary Jay Carney sounded confident, saying, "Any suggestion to the contrary might have been found in the minutes of the meetings of the Friends of Hamas."