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.
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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