Photo Credit: Yori Yanover
Chuck Hagel called the State Dept an "adjunct of the Israeli Foreign Ministry"

It is probably not the way Chuck Hagel wanted to go down in history, but whether or not he becomes the U.S. secretary of defense, his name will likely make it into the government trivia category of future Jeopardy! games.  Thursday afternoon, February 14, Hagel’s supporters were unable to muster the required 60 Senate votes to cut off debate on his nomination and move it forward for a final vote.  The vote was 58 – 40. Hagel remains on the playing field, but not yet at home plate.

Today’s vote was the first successful filibuster of the nomination for any secretary of defense in U.S. history.


While opponents of Hagel’s nomination were pleased by the historic vote, they have not succeeded in defeating his nomination, only in delaying the time at which the vote in the full senate will be taken.  Because the Democrats have a 10 seat advantage in the senate, once the nomination gets to the full senate, it remains likely that he will attain the cabinet position.


Thursday was an all-around bad day for Hagel, though, as news of yet another shockingly insensitive statement made by Hagel in the not-so-distant past was unearthed by a reporter at the Washington Free Beacon.

The latest revelation is from a speech Hagel made at Rutgers University on March 3, 2007.  Hagel’s speech was described as an early toe in the water test to determine whether he should make a run for the U.S. presidency.  While a particular statement he made is the focus of most media interest, it is worth noting that Hagel’s speech that day was sponsored by the American Iranian Council and Rutgers’ Middle East Studies Department.

The American Iranian Council – to this day! – is opposed to any sanctions against Iran.  Not only is the AIC opposed to sanctions, it opposes any intervention by Americans in the workings of the Iranian regime.

The Beacon‘s Alana Goodman discovered, by unearthing a contemporaneous blog posting by an Iranian and Hagel supporter, George Ajjan, that Hagel said at the 2007 public speech: “The State Department has become an adjunct to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.”


Even when one lines up the nasty statements made by others who fear the “strong arm – or pocketbook” of the Jewish or Israeli lobby, this one is still spectacularly bold.  Even by the lights of most Jewish/Israel lobby conspiracy-mongers, the State Department is the last government domain anyone accuses of being beholden to Israel.

While this “State Department as Zionist lapdog” statement is a real zinger, there were other statements made by Hagel at the Rutgers speech, as recorded contemporaneously by Ajjan, worth noting.

One such point is that “Iranians have a positive attitude towards the West,” which Ajjan was pleased was followed up with a kind of threat against American intervention: “but they will close ranks and support their government if their nation is threatened recklessly.”

The senate is taking a one week vacation.  The next opportunity to take up the Hagel question will be the week of February 25.

Speaking at a Google Plus Internet question and answer session after the vote on Thursday, President Obama said he expects that “Chuck Hagel, who richly deserves to get a vote on the floor of the Senate, will be confirmed as our defense secretary.” He then played a guilt card, saying it was “unfortunate that this kind of politics intrudes at a time when I’m still presiding over a war in Afghanistan.”

Leon Panetta will remain the secretary of defense until the next person to fill the position is sworn in.

While Democrats are furious about the Republican move to delay a vote on Hagel’s nomination, calling it “scoring political points” and “putting our country at risk,” in 2005, then-Illinois Senator Barack Obama voted against cloture on John Bolton’s nomination for Ambassador to the United Nations, following his recess appointment.  Bolton’s nomination was defeated.

Those backing today’s move to prevent the nomination from going forward insist that what they want are simply answers to questions they have repeatedly asked of Hagel, but which have not been answered.  Those questions have to do primarily with the assassinations in Benghazi and with compensation Hagel received from various supporters.


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Lori Lowenthal Marcus is a contributor to the A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email: [email protected]