Because we’re the Jewish Press, we’ll start with the Chuck Hagel nomination for Secretary of Defense, and move down from there. Speaking with David Gregory on Sunday’s Meet the Press, President Barack Obama voiced strong support for the former Republican Senator from Nebraska. The president insisted, however, that he was yet to make the final decision on the nomination.
In preparation for the nomination dance, Hagel released a statement Friday apologizing for comments he made in 1998 about a gay ambassadorial nominee. Hagel had come under fire in recent days for calling James Hormel, President Clinton’s nominee for ambassador to Luxembourg, “openly, aggressively gay.”
Hagel’s statement was published by the Washington Post: “My comments 14 years ago in 1998 were insensitive. They do not reflect my views or the totality of my public record, and I apologize to Ambassador Hormel and any LGBT Americans who may question my commitment to their civil rights. I am fully supportive of ‘open service’ and committed to LGBT military families.”
Emphasis on “military.”
Last week, Miami Beach’s Jewish elderly population’s favorite presidential candidate Pat Buchanan endorsed Hagel’s nomination.
Among Hagel’s many qualifications, Buchanan wrote, are his views on Iran, and if the president himself decides against going to war, he’ll have to make the case regardless of whether he nominates Hagel: “If Obama does not want that war, he is going to have to defeat the war party. Throwing an old warrior like Chuck Hagel over the side to appease these wolves is not the way to begin this fight. Nominate him, Mr. President. Let’s get it on.”
Buchanan admitted that Hagel had a few Jewish skeletons in his closet. Like when he told author Aaron David Miller that the “Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up” on the Hill. Or when he urged the U.S. to talk to Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran. Or when Hagel said, a few years back, that “a military strike against Iran … is not a viable, feasible, responsible option.”
Both Buchanan and Hagel have been accused of anti-Semitism, Hagel for saying the Jewish lobby wields too much influence on Capitol Hill and Buchanan for—oh, take your pick…
He’s how the president approached the subject of Hagel nomination on Meet the Press, courtesy of policymic.com:
GREGORY: “Former Senator Chuck Hagel has come under criticism for some comments he’s made including about a former ambassador nominee during the Clinton years that being gay was an inhibiting factor to being gay to do an effective job. Is there anything about Chuck Hagel’s record or statements that’s disqualifying to you, should you nominate him to run the Defense Department?” …
OBAMA: “Not that I see. I’ve served with Chuck Hagel. I know him. He is a patriot. He is somebody who has done extraordinary work both in the United States Senate. Somebody who served this country with valor in Vietnam. And is somebody who’s currently serving on my intelligence advisory board and doing an outstanding job.
“So I haven’t made a decision on this. With respect to the particular comment that you quoted, he apologized for it. And I think it’s a testimony to what has been a positive change over the last decade in terms of people’s attitudes about gays and lesbians serving our country. And that’s something that I’m very proud to have led.”
* * * And now, because there are other things of concern happening in the world other than the question of whether a non-ally of Israel replaces Leon Panetta, here are some quotes from today’s interview:
GREGORY: “If you go over the cliff, what’s the impact in the markets?”
OBAMA: “Obviously, I think business and investors are going to feel more negative about the economy next year. If you look at projections of 2013, people generally felt that the economy would continue to grow, unemployment would continue to tick down, housing would continue to improve. But what’s been holding us back is the dysfunction here in Washington. And if people start seeing that on January 1st this problem still hasn’t been solved, that we haven’t seen the kind of deficit reduction that we could have had had the Republicans been willing to take the deal that I gave them, if they say that people’s taxes have gone up, which means consumer spending is going to be depressed, then obviously that’s going to have an adverse reaction in the markets.”
* * * GREGORY: “How accountable are you for the fact that Washington can’t get anything done and that we are at this deadline again? … You’ve had a tough go with Congress.”