As evidence continues to mount about why former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel is so high on the dance card of Iranian regime supporters and so low on the dance card of most pro-Israel supporters, the politicians supporting Hagel have begun to sound desperate.
New York’s senior senator, Chuck Schumer, may have just relocated this debate from the staid halls of congress and plopped it directly onto the high school dramatics level of bathos.
Schumer, who initially attracted attention when he publicly stated he was not sure about the Hagel nomination, then had an intimate tête á tête (multiply the last digit by many orders of magnitude) with Hagel in the White House.
It was during that bull session that the former Nebraska senator – perhaps with some assistance from others present – apparently convinced Schumer that Hagel was the right man to head the department of defense.
In the weeks since Hagel received Schumer’s hecksher, instead of soaring, Hagel’s star faltered as it grew ever more tarnished, with multiple revelations of anti-Israel and anti-American slurs.
But Hagel’s poor performance at his confirmation hearing was sufficient to convince enough congressional members to block the nomination’s movement to the full senate for a vote there.
There was concern in particular about documents that had not been turned over addressing compensation from potential worrisome sources. In addition, some were uncomfortable with Hagel’s inability to field questions put to him during the vetting process. And then there were the questions of where the former senator stood with respect to various players in the Middle East, based on earlier comments and votes.
Now, while the senate is on a brief hiatus, revelations continue.
And just to show how low Hagel’s star has fallen, we learned that Wednesday morning, while Schumer was giving a talk to some business groups in Manhattan, he shared with them some of the details about the famous conversation he had with Hagel, the one that moved him onto the pro-Hagel for secretary of defense team. Those details were not discussed previously, as they had been described as confidential.
What did Schumer learn? He learned that deep down, Hagel is an uber sensitive guy. All Schumer had to do was explain why it was so hateful to Jews for Hagel to refer to them as the “Jewish lobby,” to share the pain of the double standard Jews have had to endure, and Hagel was cured!
According to Schumer, the scales fell from Hagel’s eyes. And Hagel repented. He felt their pain. How do we know that?
We know that because Schumer brought his Wednesday morning audience into that intimate space with him, and told those listening what he felt. “And he really, you know, he almost had tears in his eyes when he understood. So I believe he will be good.”
Schumer provided inaccurate information about other matters Wednesday morning. He said that “there is not a major Jewish organization against Hagel.”
That’s not true.
The Zionist Organization of America and the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) have been on record opposing the nomination of Chuck Hagel since President Obama first named him as his choice for secretary of Defense.
The centrist American Jewish Committee has been at least softly opposed to Hagel’s nomination even before the nod was officially given by the president. Back in December, the AJC’s president, David Harris said, “what message would it send to have a Pentagon chief who has very different views on strategies for dealing with Iran, the central foreign policy challenge of our time, than the White House has had to date? Or questions the designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist group at the same time the Administration is urging the European Union to add the group to its terrorism list?”
And the politically centrist, Democratic Party-leaning Anti-Defamation League joined the AJC in strongly questioning the nomination after information about some of Hagel’s comments, in particular that he was recorded as saying that the “U.S. State Department is an adjunct of the Israeli Foreign Ministry,” at a speech at Rutgers University in 2007.
AIPAC NOT TAKE POSITIONS ON NOMINATIONS
Much has been made of the lack of opposition by the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee, but AIPAC never takes a position on a political nomination. The absence of one in this situation should give no comfort to Hagel supporters, or signal anything else to those who have questions and are looking to organizational leadership for direction.
A source close to AIPAC provided The Jewish Press with a lengthy explanation for why AIPAC was sitting out the Hagel debate.
The celebration by the pro-Hagel sycophants suggesting that AIPAC’s long standing policy of not lobbying on nominations is somehow meaningful is truly evidence of how little they understand the organization or the pro-Israel community. AIPAC didn’t have to endorse Cynthia McKinney’s opponent for the pro-Israel community to know that she was hostile to Israel and favored terrorists and totalitarians and despots over democratic allies.
To understand how AIPAC feels about people like Hagel and Cynthia McKinney, all one has to do is open their eyes. The organization’s longstanding policy not to rate or endorse candidates is the same as not lobbying on nominations.
Chuck Hagel’s record on issues important to the pro-Israel community is dismal. He spent years literally bragging about it, and now he says there is not a shred of evidence to show that hostility. That comment is as sincere as his apology for his attacks on gay rights and on openly gay Americans. Likewise his slurs suggesting American Jews, who along with tens of millions of non-Jewish Americans are part of America’s the pro-Israel lobby, are somehow less than completely loyal to America, is truly disgusting and evidence of bigotry.
So what organizations was Schumer thinking of that don’t oppose the Hagel nomination? Maybe he meant J Street or Jewish Voice for Peace.
Then again, Schumer also predicted after his White House meet-up with Hagel that the nominee would wow the crowds at the confirmation hearings. Schumer said then, “he’s going to allay the concerns of many people.” True, but the senator probably did not mean allay the concerns of those who feared Chuck Hagel might become the U.S. secretary of defense.
And there’s this: while Schumer described himself as having given a meaningful tutorial to Hagel on the anti-Semitic associations with dual loyalty and the pain caused by stereotyping, when Schumer – falsely – assured his audience Wednesday morning that “no major Jewish organizations oppose Hagel,” he then explained who did.
“The main fight on Hagel is coming from the neocons, who you know well. And they resent Hagel’s apostasy on Iraq,” Schumer said. “You may remember — the neocons helped push Iraq — and Hagel was one of the first Republicans to say Iraq wasn’t working. And he was right. But that’s where it’s coming from.”
Ah, yes, the evil neocons. Isn’t that a derogatory code word for a particular religious minority group?
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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