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September 21, 2014 / 26 Elul, 5774
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Mr. President, What Are You Thinking?

How many times do we have to hear statements like 'The Jews have too much Power' before we realize that the people saying it are anti- Semites?!
CHUCK Hagel

This isn’t just about finding someone who has a more balanced view of Middle Eastern politics. This is about the most insidious type of anti-Semitism. The kind that is so subtle that there are actually Jewish organizations that defend him. Like J-Street recently did.

Chuck Hagel was a senator from Nebraska from 1996 to 2008. He is also a Vietnam War veteran who earned several medals during his service there. I used to admire him before I found out how he thinks. How can you not admire someone who puts his life on the line and serves his country with valor? His more or less conservative political views also had some appeal to me as a right leaning political moderate.

But then he started making comments like “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here.” That makes Professors John Mearshiemer and Stephan Walt look like members of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee). For those who don’t recall, those two academicians wrote a book about how much the Zionist lobby has too much influence on US foreign policy.

As Brett Stevens points out in his excellent Wall Street Journal analysis, Mearsheimer and Walt understand that the Israeli lobby is not a solely a Jewish lobby. A lot of support for the policies of say AIPAC comes from Christian Zionists. If AIPAC only represented Jews it would have no influence at all. We are less than 2% of the population and an insignificant factor politically. And many do not even subscribe to the policies of AIPAC. Ask J-Street.

When I started hearing statements like this from Mr. Hagel, I knew that his antipathy was not reserved for those who support the state of Israel. It was reserved for us. The Jews. This is how anti-Semitism in Europe flourished. Nazism didn’t start in one day. It built up over time as we gained more wealth and influence there. By the time Germany was in enough dire straits to elect a Hitler, the Jewish people were ripe for becoming the scapegoat of choice. All that subtle prejudice turned into an eventual Holocaust aided and abetted by a willing populations in countries like Poland, Lithuania and the Ukraine.

How many times do we have to hear statements like “The Jews have too much Power” before we realize that the people saying it are anti- Semites?!

Of course Chuck Hagel will, I’m sure, deny that he is a anti-Semite. I’ll bet that he can even point to things that will “prove” it. I’m sure that he will say something like “Some of my best friends are Jewish”! Don’t believe it. I don’t buy that kind of “friendship” for a minute.

I for one was glad that he retired from the Senate. One less anti-Semite to worry about. A dangerous one who was a war hero. His political views with respect to Israel are not at all unlike those of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Recall that Wright too served the military with distinction. He was chosen as part of a medical team charged with the care of then President Lyndon Johnson. And was thanked for that in a personal letter by an Admiral on behalf of the President.

The only difference between Hegel and Wright is the level of subtlety. Wright does not mince words. Hegel tires to come off as a courageous public servant who refuses to be influenced by powerful lobbies. Like the Jewish one.

I bring all of this up because Hagel’s name has surfaced as President Obama’s possible choice to replace Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense – probably the second most powerful cabinet position. One one that has a direct impact on Israel. The most powerful cabinet position is Secretary of State. The leading contender for that is John Kerry. Not too thrilled about that choice either. I would have preferred Susan Rice. But Kerry is gold compared to Hagel. I cannot imagine too many people who would be a worse choice for such a powerful position. Maybe Jeremiah Wright.

I somehow can’t believe that the President doesn’t know about Mr. Hagel’s antipathy towards Israel. It is surprising that he is being considered at all, let alone that he is apparently the front runner.

I know the President is not an anti- Semite. I also know that he supports the State of Israel (despite the insistence by many who say he doesn’t). He has proven to me that he does. That he has differences with them over some polices does not make him anti Israel. Nor do I feel that way even though I disagree with him on some of those policies.

In describing the “ripe” odor of Hagel’s prejudice based on the word “intimdates” in the quote above – here is a particularly trenchant excerpt from Steven’s WSJ article:

Ripe, finally, because Mr. Hagel’s Jewish lobby remark was well in keeping with the broader pattern of his thinking. “I’m a United States Senator, not an Israeli Senator,” Mr. Hagel told retired US diplomat Aaron David Miller in 2006. “I’m a United States Senator. I support Israel. But my first interest is I take an oath of office to the Constitution of the United States. Not to a president. Not a party. Not to Israel. If I go run for Senate in Israel, I’ll do that.”

Read these staccato utterances again to better appreciate their insipid and insinuating qualities, all combining to cast the usual slur on Jewish-Americans: Dual loyalty. Nobody questions Mr. Hagel’s loyalty. He is only making those assertions to question the loyalty of others.

Still, Mr. Hagel managed to say “I support Israel.” This is the sort of thing one often hears from people who treat Israel as the Mideast equivalent of a neighborhood drunk who, for his own good, needs to be put in the clink to sober him up.

All this points to why the possible choice of Chuck Hegel for Secretary of Defense is so troubling. Can you imagine what this guy would do if Israel’s security depended on some additional US help – whether military or financial?

He would very likely lobby hard against it to the President – arguing that Israel should not be America’s concern; that we have already helped them too much; and have already spent too much of the American tax-payer’s money on them in. Especially in the financially strapped economy we are in!

I hope and pray that this does not come to fruition. It could mean disaster for Israel – and ultimately for world peace.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at hmaryles@yahoo.com.


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9 Responses to “Mr. President, What Are You Thinking?”

  1. As president of rabbsi for Romney, I urged the Jewish people to vote against OBAMA. THIS IS WHAT YOU GET. RABBI DR. BENRHARD ROSENBERG

  2. As president of rabbsi for Romney, I urged the Jewish people to vote against OBAMA. THIS IS WHAT YOU GET. RABBI DR. BENRHARD ROSENBERG

  3. Stan Harder says:

    OK Obama supporters — can we say 'I told you so' yet?

  4. Rc Fowler says:

    After all this time there are those who admire the Vietnam war–how pathetic; those who served in Vietnam–did not serve to protect and defend America–it was an immoral and completely unnecessary war!

  5. Rc Fowler says:

    I've been saying and writing I told you so for years–since before the election of 2008!

  6. Rc Fowler says:

    The communist Vietnamese were absolutely no threat to America–duh!

  7. There are many reasons to oppose Chuck Hagel besides Israel, anti-semitism and Iran.

    To me he is the stereotypical Archie Bunker type bigot. His policies have been anti gay (even now after his late and self serving apology he doesn't support equal benefits for gay military families. He is anti-African American (with a 17/100 rating from NAACP and admires Strom Thurmond as a great role model. anti Woman (vs choice and contraception).
    and
    Hagel has drawn additional heat from insiders who claim he lacks the credentials needed to manage a department as large and essential as the Pentagon.

    “Yes, Hagel has crazy positions on several key issues. Yes, Hagel has said things that are borderline anti-Semitism. Yes, Hagel wants to gut the Pentagon’s budget. But above all, he’s not a nice person and he’s bad to his staff,” said a senior Republican Senate aide who has close ties to former Hagel staffers.

    “Hagel was known for turning over staff every few weeks—within a year’s time he could have an entirely new office because nobody wanted to work for him,” said the source. “You have to wonder how a man who couldn’t run a Senate office is going to be able to run an entire bureaucracy.”.

    Others familiar with Hagel’s 12 year tenure in the Senate said he routinely intimidated staff and experienced frequent turnover.

    “Chuck Hagel may have been collegial to his Senate colleagues but he was the Cornhusker wears Prada to his staff, some of whom describe their former boss as perhaps the most paranoid and abusive in the Senate, one who would rifle through staffers desks and berate them for imagined disloyalty,” said Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser on Iran and Iraq. “He might get away with that when it comes to staffers in their 20s, but that sort of personality is going to go over like a ton of bricks at the Pentagon.”.

    Multiple sources corroborated this view of Hagel.

    “As a manager, he was angry, accusatory, petulant,” said one source familiar with his work on Capitol Hill. “He couldn’t keep his staff.”.

    “I remember him accusing one of his staffers of being ‘f—ing stupid’ to his face,” recalled the source who added that Hagel typically surrounded himself with those “who basically hate Republicans.”.

    Sources expressed concern about such behavior should Hagel be nominated for the defense post. With competing military and civilian interests vying for supremacy, the department requires a skilled manager, sources said.

    “The Pentagon requires strong civilian control,” a senior aide to former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told the Free Beacon. “It’s already swung back in favor of the military over the past five years. A new secretary of defense should push it back in its rightful place, but it’s doubtful Hagel would be that guy.”.

    “It’s not clear that [Hagel] has the standing, the managerial prowess, or the willingness to gore some oxen,” said the source.

    One senior Bush administration official warned that Hagel is ill informed about many critical foreign policy matters.

    “He’s not someone who’s shown a lot of expertise on these issues,” said the source, referencing a recent Washington Post editorial excoriating Hagel’s record. “That [op-ed] was extraordinary.”.

    “Only in Washington,” the official added, “can someone like [Hagel] be seen as a heavy weight. He’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer.”.

    Hagel is likely viewed positively by the administration mainly because he is a Republican who often criticizes his own party, the source said.

    “He’ll dance to a tune played by the White House,” said the former official. “That I think is the real problem.”.

    As lawmakers consider a deal to avoid sweeping budgets cuts and tax hikes, Hagel’s support for slashing spending at the Pentagon has irked many defense hawks.

    “This is a time when a secretary of defense needs to be raising hell about the sequestration cuts,” said the Rumsfeld aide. “It’s not clear that Hagel has any interest in picking that fight.”.

    Hagel’s reluctance to chastise Iran also remains a central concern.

    As chief of the Pentagon it is expected he would avoid planning for a military intervention should Tehran refuse to end its clandestine nuclear enrichment program.

    “The military brass is already reluctant to offer up any military options on Iran even though it’s their job to have something on the books and to leave the options of the commander in chief open,” said the Rumsfeld aide. “Hagel will only reinforce these worrisome tendencies.”.

    “Chances are he’ll view any legitimate effort to talk about military options with Iran as some plot by the ‘Israel Lobby’ to box him in,” the source said.

  8. Senators Gildebrand and Schumer must decide if they will represent New Yorkers or only President Obama should the President make the wrong choice and nominate Chuck Hagel.

    I have not heard anything from Senator Gildebrand and readers from New York should call her office and ask why.

  9. The name is Bret Stephens not Brett Stevens.

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