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Jewish Response to Hagel Nomination Tepid to Furious

The best most pro-Israel leaders were willing to do was downplay the policy-making role of the secretary of defense.
Sen. Chuck Hagel in Iraq.

Sen. Chuck Hagel in Iraq.
Photo Credit: U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Casey Jones

As expected, yesterday, January 6, U.S. President Barack Obama nominated former U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NB) for the position of Secretary of Defense.

The confirmation process ahead may be a bruising one, although many in the mainstream and “progressive” media are trying to paint the tepid announcements and refusals by centrist Jewish groups to officially oppose Hagel for the position as akin to a hecksher.  But not so fast.

In a Twitter world occupied by liberal media-types, the same people repeatedly retweeted each other’s statements with tepid comments about Hagel’s acceptability to Jewish Democrats, in an effort to create the appearance of a groundswell.

In what amounted to news for some,  Jewish organizations widely viewed as almost entirely peopled by Democrats issued statements harshly criticizing Hagel’s positions and statements on Israel and on Jews, but refraining from directly confronting their party leader by officially opposing the Hagel nomination.

For example, the press release issued by the Anti-Defamation League was a study in pretzel-twisting.  While recounting the many reasons why the ADL is unhappy about the nomination of Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense, the organization pulls back at the brink and does not  officially oppose the nomination.  Here’s part of their release:

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, said:

Senator Hagel would not have been my first choice, but I respect the President’s prerogative.

I trust that the confirmation process will provide an opportunity for Senator Hagel to address concerns about his positions, which seem so out of sync with President Obama’s clear commitment on issues like Iran sanctions, isolating Hamas and Hezbollah and the president’s strong support for a deepening of U.S. Israel strategic cooperation.

I particularly hope Senator Hagel will clarify and explain his comments about the “Jewish Lobby” that were hurtful to many in the Jewish Community.

The League previously expressed concerns with the Senator’s record on Israel and Iran, and said of his record relating to Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship that it was “at best disturbing and at worst, very troubling,” citing his remarks about the Jewish lobby and his voting record on Israel and Iran.

It seems as though the best most pro-Israel leaders who are reluctant to cross President Obama on his “prerogative,” were willing to do was to downplay the policy-making role of secretary of defense.  The National Jewish Democratic Council, which had also publicly criticized Hagel’s positions on Israel in the past, was willing to rely on their great faith in President Obama’s support and concern for Israel to let the Hagel nomination pass without an objection.  The NJDC statement:

“President Barack Obama’s unprecedented pro-Israel credentials are unquestionable, and setting policy starts and stops with the president. While we have expressed concerns in the past, we trust that when confirmed, former Sen. Chuck Hagel will follow the president’s lead of providing unrivaled support for Israel — on strategic cooperation, missile defense programs, and leading the world against Iran’s nuclear program.”

Israeli media sang from the same hymnal as Israel Channel 2′s foreign news editor, Arad Nir, pointed out, “Obama is still the commander-in-chief.”  That was unlikely to be much comfort for those for whom President Obama’s policies are a source of concern.

On the other side of the journalistic political spectrum, the Emergency Committee for Israel pulled off a coup worthy of the Merry Pranksters of the 1960′s, but 21st Century style.  ECI had obtained the domain name ChuckHagel.Com.  If you click the link you are taken to a website which provides information about the former Senator on various issues of importance including Iran, Israel, Syria, public statements made by politicians, both Republican and Democratic.  As the headline of the website clearly shows, ECI believes the information on the site shows that  Hagel is “not a responsible option” for the position of Secretary of Defense.

When Obama, a Democrat, announced Hagel’s nomination this morning, he said that his selection of a Republican “represents the bipartisan tradition that we need more of in Washington.”

Republicans roared back.

“He has long severed his ties with the Republican Party,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said Sunday. Graham called the selection “an in-your-face nomination by the president to all of us who are supportive of Israel.”  Sen. John Conryn (R-TX) has already said he will vote against Hagel’s nomination, and predicted that many Republicans would join him in voting against Hagel.  “Some of Sen. Hagel’s positions would either render America weaker or create ambiguity in regard to our role in maintaining security and peace,” said Conryn.

It isn’t only the pro-Israel gallery that is troubled by Hagel’s nomination.  Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) raised concerns about Hagel’s opposition to sanctions against Cuba, and some, such as Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR), are alarmed by a potential secretary of defense who has referred to the U.S. miliary as “bloated” and in need of being ‘pared down.’

What’s more, many in the Republican party are simply furious by what they clearly see as Hagel’s traitorous ways.  As a Washington Post story put it

“He basically doesn’t have a single Senate Republican friend who served with him,” said one senior GOP Senate aide granted anonymity to speak candidly. The source added that Hagel had not only given cover to Democrats on a number of high-profile issues but that he had also badly alienated his colleagues with his strong endorsement of former Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey in the 2012 Nebraska Senate race.

And then there are problems with those in the President’s own party.  Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is a critical political player to watch.  Schumer is considered to be staunchly pro-Israel and he is a Democrat; his constituency is unlikely to welcome a vote in favor of someone about whom there is so much negative information regarding Israel. In a recent appearance on NBC’s Meet The Press, Schumer declined to endorse Hagel.

All eyes have been on Schumer and the press release he issued on the day of the nomination could not have been very reassuring to Hagel.  Rather than endorse the nomination, Schumer limply stated he “looks forward to fully studying his [Hagel's] record and exploring his positions” on the issues.  Schumer was only able to muster enthusiasm for Hagel’s “right to nothing less than a full and fair process in the Senate.”

And what a process that portends to be.

About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.


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2 Responses to “Jewish Response to Hagel Nomination Tepid to Furious”

  1. The Senate should say no to this terrible choice.

    Please contact your senator especially senators Gildebrand, Blumenthal, Mendendez and Lautenberg.

    Here are some reasons you can ask them to vote no.

    Hagel has no natural constituency, except perhaps for those who want a foreign and defense policy that is tougher on Israel and softer on Iran.

    Israel would be clear that Obama views the Jewish state with hostility. Iran would be clear that it has nothing serious to fear from the Obama administration.

    Nothing else can explain this odd nomination. Team Obama tried to couch it as a bipartisan act, inasmuch as Hagel was a Republican Senator. But key Republican Senators have made it clear that they don’t want Hagel at the Pentagon. Key Democrats have also failed to express enthusiasm over that prospect. If there’s a bipartisan consensus around Hagel, it’s that Obama should nominate someone else.

    If the President would like to abandon his election promises about stopping Iran's nuclear weapons program he should just say so.

    Trying to change US Defense and Foreign Policy by just appointing Hagel will be understood that way in the Senate and will.
    not be accepted.
    Ten out of twenty-five members of the.
    Senate Armed Services Committee, Democrats, Republicans and Independents,
    have already expressed their concerns about him.

    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.

    there are many ways a Secretary of Defense could help gay military families no matter how DOMA is decided and Hagel has not come out in favor of any of these.

    Reports to the contrary, LGBT equality is not yet a done deal in the military. There is still the matter of partner benefits. There still remain a handful of regulations that could be revised independent of the Defense of Marriage act that could bring some equity of compensation and benefits to gay and lesbian service members. but remain denied due only to Department of Defense foot-dragging:

    Included in the discretionary benefits currently denied are spousal identication cards, and shopping at the PX, the former cited in the Pentagon's own Working Group study as not requiring DOMA repeal to deliver.

    His remarks about the Jewish lobby having too much influence would cleary be seen as bigoted if you substitute any other.
    minority group's lobby. Try NAACP or La Raza and see how long you would be considered.

    He is anti-African American (with a 11/100 rating from NAACP and admires Strom Thurmond as a great role model. anti Woman (vs choice and contraception).
    By contrast, he has a 100% rating from the NRA.

    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 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.

    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 a former Secretary of Defense 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’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 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.

    There is no reason to believe his appointment would change Israeli policies.

    But there is a very strong likelihood that it would be a fatal blow to the chances of a negotiated settlement with Iran.

    Iran would have to conclude that it doesn't have to fear.
    finishing it's nuclear weapons program or even continuing towards ICBM's pointing at America.

    Democratic senators, several of whom have already voiced concern, also should vote no on someone who's views on many major issues are opposite of the President's.
    and who's language is bigoted, and instead insist he appoint a better person like Michelle Flournoy.

    Flournoy closely mirrors the previous stated policies of the President, the Democratic Party, and the American people.

  2. Henri Korn says:

    Obama is losing his grip. Hagel's appointment will only stiffen Israel's back. America, say no to Hagel,

Comments are closed.

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