Finally John Warner let Chuck Hagel speak. Warner, having declared that he was discarding his prepared remarks in the interest of sincerity and brevity and then spoken for 15 minutes, turned to Hagel with a friendly warning: “You’re on your own.”

Truer words, as they say.

Hagel would testify for nearly eight hours in the service of his confirmation to be the country’s next secretary of defense. And what started as an unsteady, unimpressive performance soon turned disastrous. Republicans were tough and aggressive, pushing Hagel to elucidate his past positions and to explain his sometimes odd statements. Democrats were accommodating and generous, repeatedly rephrasing Hagel’s jumbled syntax and reframing his confusing claims.

Despite their efforts, Hagel was indeed on his own. And any senator who takes the advise-and-consent role seriously had to have real concerns about the nominee’s basic competence.