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More On The Hagel Problem

As we noted last week, President Obama’s apparent inclination to appoint former Republican senator Chuck Hagel as his new secretary of defense has been disturbing from the start, given Mr. Hagel’s record of opposing sanctions against Iran, his criticism of U.S. partiality toward Israel, and his reference to what he called “the Jewish lobby” in Washington, which, he suggested, unduly urges the U.S. government to act on behalf of Israel’s interests.

Mr. Hagel has also taken to reminding his critics that he was elected a member of the United States Senate, not the Israeli Knesset.

The notion that a man with such views could have the ear of the president over the next four years is troubling enough, but of perhaps greater concern is the idea that Mr. Obama seems comfortable with Mr. Hagel’s worldview.

Of course it can be argued that President Obama has proven that he does indeed “have Israel’s back,” as he has stated on more than one occasion. During the recent Operation Pillar of Defense he stood solidly behind Israel both materially and against international criticism. He also just blocked yet another attempt at the UN Security Council to pass a resolution condemning Israel’s recent announcement of new settlement building (though he is still on record as opposing new settlement construction). And he was in the forefront of efforts to dissuade the Palestinian Authority’s Mahmoud Abbas from seeking even limited recognition of a Palestinian state from the UN General Assembly.

In addition, changed circumstances on the ground in the Middle East would seem to militate against any great effort by the U.S. to pressure Israel to make concessions deemed necessary to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiation table. The uncertainties wrought by the upheavals of the Arab Spring, Hamas’s eclipse of Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, and the inability of the international community to get its arms around the Iranian problem are certainly inconsistent with any idea of Israel making agreements with anyone in the Arab world.

Even so, no one can predict the future, especially in the Middle East, and elevating a man like Chuck Hagel at this point in time would raise all sorts of questions about where the administration stands on a host of foreign policy and defense issues.

As we went to press on Tuesday, it appeared a Hagel nomination was far from a done deal, in large measure due to mounting criticism of Mr. Hagel’s record, particularly his hostility toward Israel. We look to Mr. Obama to do the right thing and nominate someone other than Mr. Hagel.

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4 Responses to “More On The Hagel Problem”

  1. There are many reasons to oppose Chuck Hagel for Secreetary of Defense besides Israel, Anti-Semitism and Iran.

    You can argue that singling out only Jews for exerting too much influence is not anti-semetc. You could argue that the US should accept an Iranian nuclear weapons program or even an Iranian ICBM program. You could argue that Israel should withdraw to the 1967 armistice lines from which it was attacked in return for nothing and still be pro-Israel.

    But 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.

  2. Roy Neal Grissom says:

    Oh heavens to betsy, by all means let us oppose Hagel because he is anti-"gay" and anti-"choice." That is so integral to Judaism, ever since 'Avraham opened the first abortion clinic and Mosheh took down the words "thou shalt not be a homophobe" from the very mouth of HaShem. Not to mention how Yehoshu`a Bin Nun ran all the "bigots" out of 'Eretz Yisra'el when he built the first "museum of tolerance." (/sarcasm).

    Apparently the source of today's so-called "Jewish values" are Voltaire and the eighteenth century European "enlightenment." Funny…I didn't know Voltaire was Jewish! (/sarcasm again)

  3. Charlie Hall says:

    Yes, lets oppose him for that reason and for many others. The truth is, any ONE of the reasons articulated by Jean Pierre Katz is sufficient to oppose him! This is the time to make common cause with the pro-Gay and pro-abortion folks because of shared interests. (And I hope you aren't one of the "Jews for Morality" crowd who supports anyone who is anti-Gay and anti-abortion, no matter how big an anti-Semite.)

  4. Dear Roy Neal Grissom,

    I don't know if you ever heard of Alan Turing. He was a code breaker during World War 2. Many people believe his contribution defeated Adolph Hitler. Certainly without him, the English could not have been supplied, there would not have been a landing at Normandy, England would have fallen to the Reich. He was gay.

    Today the Iranian nuclear weapons program threatens the lives of millions.

    Chuck Hagel's nomination would make allowing the program de-facto US policy.

    Of course neither Moshe Rabeinu or Joshua would be advocating for equal benefits for gay military families or all abortion rights except for some that Chuck Hagel opposed . But if they were here with us today they certainly would pray that Chuck Hagel will not be nominated.

    I hope that when Moshe Rabeinu saw the future Chuck Hagel was not part of it.

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