A little common sense broke out in Washington this week.

After a one-on-one meeting with Chuck Hagel, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, the No. 3 Senate Democrat, said he will support Hagel's nomination as secretary of defense.

The two met for 90 minutes on Monday, and Schumer said he liked what he heard from Hagel about Israel, Iran and gay rights — all areas where Hagel has been targeted by critics. Hagel also picked up backing from another key pro-Israel Democrat, California Sen. Barbara Boxer. The New Yorker, an influential voice on U.S.-Israel relations, is another important ally for the former Nebraska senator.

While Hagel isn't winning over every senator — Oklahoma Republican James M. Inhofe said they remain “too philosophically opposed” — these meetings are opportunities for him to rebut much of the unfair criticism he has faced since his name first surfaced for the job.

And that will allow the examination to shift to a critical issue — how to keep America safe in an age of budget austerity. Hagel's qualifications make him an excellent choice to guide the Pentagon into this new era, and his critics haven't challenged that.

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