It looks as if Barack Obama is about to withdraw the idea of nominating Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense…
In Barack Obama’s lexicon of prudential juggling, to carry on and nominate Chuck Hagel now, after the opposition in the last two weeks has used the time it was given to grow, would be merely a “distraction” from the serious aims of his presidency. And in the playbook that is the constant guide of the maturity of Obama’s judgment, a distraction can never be allowed…. Rice is a careerist of the national security elite. Her only idiosyncrasy, if one can call it that, is excessive enthusiasm for “humanitarian intervention” and the remote-control wars that such enthusiasm breeds. Hagel, by contrast, is an independent thinker and a dissident, far more than the president himself — a man so alienated from the Republican war madness and other kinds of madness that he walked away from his party in 2008.
[Obama’s] silence over Hagel — the contrast with the show of insulted loyalty for Rice is instructive — has opened the way for so much demagogic nonsense that alongside the anti-gay and anti-Israel charges, it has actually become possible to make an objection out of the fact that Senator Hagel criticized the Iraq war.
This final twist of the anti-Hagel slanders, a real regression in the tenor of popular discussion, must also be blamed in some measure on President Obama. For it echoes his own turn from saying in 2007 that the Iraq war made America less safe to his saying in 2010 that it made America safer.
Jennifer Epstein has a piece up at Politico that makes a point of identifying Joe Lieberman and Chuck Schumer as Jews in stating that they are cool toward their former colleague, Chuck Hagel, who made the mistake of calling out the “Jewish lobby.” But she also speaks about Jewish groups opposing Hagel. I’m now confused. Is it alright to talk about Jewish organizations or not? I say it is, it’s important to identify the origins of the objections to Hagel. Here are the several Jewish references in Epstein’s piece:
Of course she could have mentioned J Street. It’s a Jewish group that supports him…
Idrees Ahmad points out that this happened with Hagel once before. In 2009, Hagel was mentioned for an Obama administration job. Then too it was Jewish groups, the Jewish establishment, that scotched a Hagel nomination. From Haaretz, Natasha Mozgovaya:
Every appointee to the American government must endure a thorough background check by the American Jewish community.
In the case of Obama’s government in particular, every criticism against Israel made by a potential government appointee has become a catalyst for debate about whether appointing “another leftist” offers proof that Obama does not truly support Israel.
A few months ago, boisterous protests by the American Jewish community helped foil the appointment of Chaz Freeman to chair the National Intelligence Council, citing his “anti-Israel leaning.”
The next attempt to appoint an intelligence aide, in this case, former Republican senator Chuck Hagel, also resulted in vast criticism over his not having a pro-Israel record.
American Zionists are urging Obama to cancel Hagel’s appointment because of what they call a long and problematic record of hostility toward Israel.
The president of the Zionist Organization of America, Morton A. Klein, described Hagel’s nomination as such: “Any American who is concerned about Iran’s drive to obtain nuclear weapons, maintaining the Israeli-U.S. relationship and supporting Israel in its legitimate fight to protect her citizens from terrorism should oppose this appointment.”
By contrast, notice that NPR did a piece on the possible Hagel nomination yesterday and treated it as a partisan matter, that Republicans are against him:
Robert Siegel: And even the possibility of his nomination has stirred up opposition from members of his own party.
That was the intro. In the ensuing piece, Tom Bowman did hint at the role of the Israel lobby. Though it would have been nice if he had called Eliot Cohen a neoconservative:
Even the rumor that Hagel might be nominated inspired a campaign to block him. Republicans and supporters of Israel accuse him of being anti-Israel and soft on Iran. Hagel, as a senator, voted against sanctions on Iran, though now he says sanctions should be ratcheted up. Eliot Cohen was an adviser to President George W. Bush.
ELIOT COHEN: If you have somebody there who’s already made it clear that he does not want to engage in a confrontation with Iran, what kind of negotiating leverage do we have? You want to have as secretary of defense, somebody who’s the heavy, somebody who’s the guy who looks as if he’s perfectly capable of waging war against you and happy to do it. That’s just kind of elementary negotiating tactics.
Also yesterday I noted the petition for Hagel at Moveon and failed to supply the correct link. Here it is.