Bagel for Hagel?

on 30 Comments

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.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

Other posts by .

Posted In:

30 Responses

  1. Krauss
    December 25, 2012, 1:11 pm

    I’m not surprised that NPR’s Robert Siegel is misleading his readers/listeners. He happily volunteered to playing the frivolous court clown in front of, and in honor of, Avigdor Lieberman when the fascist came to town a month ago or so.

    The “blame the Republican Party” meme is catching speed. Amy Davidson at the New Yorker is also blaming “GOP extremism”, no word that it was Obama’s Jewish outreach director, Ira Forman, that was instrumental in rolling the ball against Hagel, or that David Harris and other “liberal” Establishment Jews were also early on. Oh no, this is supposedly an internal Republican matter.

    If that were so, why is Obama not rushing to Hagel’s aid? Of course, then the media would have to start asking the really hard questions, why are the neocons, with few exceptions, being allowed to run roughshod over Hagel? Because they are getting backup from the ADL, AJC, National Democratic Jewish Committee and many others, not to mention AIPAC.

    Even J Street isn’t really trying to help Hagel, just one brief comment of support and that was it. He is withering in the storm, naked.

    Also, notice the total silence of the NYT. Is this what Sarah Shulman meant when she wrote of the ‘Jewish politics’ at the Times? The Times constantly laments the lack of serious, moderate Republicans. Yet, their hypocrisy is laid bare as there is a prime example of just such a Republican before their eyes yet their total silence is deafening. Why are they silent? Because, again, of Jewish politics. This isn’t an intra-GOP affair. This is a Jewish affair.

    By the way, one final word. Have you heard of even one statement by CUFI, the Christian lobby? They’re the fig leaf you know. No, Hagel was right to call it the “Jewish lobby”. The Christians are just the fig leafs.

    • stardust
      December 26, 2012, 7:36 am

      Beyond the despicable machinations of lobbyists and media lapdogs, to me the most disheartening is that Obama won’t stand up for Hagel, a decent and distinguished patriot, vet and senator who rose above party line to offer his support and advice to the President. As has been shown, it’s become a pattern with Obama, throwing real progressives or, in this case, outspoken moderates – by republican standards – under the bus.

      I’d say that Obama only makes it look as though he is pounded and forced to cave in by pressure groups, when in fact he plays to their tune from very start. In this affair, it’s *that* Lobby, which, like in an Orwellian utopia came true, is all-powerful but cannot even be named.

      • Mooser
        December 26, 2012, 12:13 pm

        When Obama came into office, and did not immediately stop the criminal Bush foreign policy and “anti-terrorism” policy, he was bound for disaster.
        I sometimes wonder if the military’s goal isn’t to re-start conscription during Obama’s Presidency.

  2. seanmcbride
    December 25, 2012, 1:17 pm

    The Hagel affair of 2012 may well mark the historical turning point in which the discussion about the Israel lobby morphed into a discussion about the Jewish lobby — and the reasons for this should be quite obvious — simply take a close look at the list of Hagel’s attackers.

    We all know by now that Barack Obama is rather a weak and spineless character. If he backs away from the Hagel nomination, he will be announcing to the world that he intends to be Benjamin Netanyahu’s and William Kristol’s little bitch for the next four years.

    The Israel lobby has made it clear during this controversy that its number one issue continues to be the drive to push Americans into a self-destructive war against Iran — while continuing to build Jewish-only settlements in the occupied territories. Many “liberal Zionists” in the Democratic Party — like Chuck Schumer and Eliot Engel — are enabling this Israel First agenda. That is what the vicious attacks on Chuck Hagel have been all about.

  3. yourstruly
    December 25, 2012, 1:27 pm

    every appointee to the u.s. government must be vetted by the organized jewish community, yet there’s no such thing as a jewish lobby?

    meanwhile the doomsday that’s closing in on us?

    except to discredit it, hardly ever mentioned

    preventing said unmentionable?

    in the spirit of those magical eighteen days in tahrir square
    nothing less than popular uprisings

    based on?

    time running out

  4. Citizen
    December 25, 2012, 2:40 pm

    Obama has been riding the magic carpet of PC politics since he was a kid. He’s a poster boy for affirmative action writ large and in every nuance. Nobody feels more entitled than he does, and he’s loyal to fellow travelers, even hacks like Rice. In the foreign policy arena especially, Freeman (Mitchell too) was of statesman quality, and so is Hagel. Obama could care less. I fear, for Obama, they are just old white guys like his maternal grandfather. Good for a show of inclusiveness in his search for his holy grail, which is a decidedly banal one, contemporary career politician very ordinary. I think he’s a closet reverse racist. As I said, very ordinary guy with usual politicians search for more power for his personal well-being.

    • aiman
      December 26, 2012, 8:50 am

      Couldn’t agree more. Obama will principally be known as a scam or a brand by future generations who have acquired distance from the public relation stream of the present. Those who have recognised him as such in the present have been shunned by the so-called left. I have heard otherwise intelligent people express support for him just because of the colour of his skin, which is patronising to say the least. That may be historic, but universalists never cared about a history that sins. Each man is known by his fruits. No one with moral integrity can be allowed to run for president. There are too many players and powers you must bow to. No truly moral man can fulfil the duties of a president. The whole system in place is rotten. Now they come out to stone Hagel and Brand Obama could care less.

    • chinese box
      December 26, 2012, 8:52 am

      I had no illusions about Obama when I voted for him, but I didn’t expect him to capitulate less than 2 months after being re-elected. I didn’t care for Rice but he wouldn’t even stand up for her. Maybe he’ll surprise us on Hagel, but I doubt it.

    • Mooser
      December 26, 2012, 10:40 am

      “I fear, for Obama, they are just old white guys like his maternal grandfather.”

      “Old white guys like his maternal grandfather” Damn, and I thought me’ an Obama was close. He never tells me personal stuff like that.
      Anyway, “old white guys” like the top military brass who convinced Obama that a genius like himself could make the Bush “foreign policy” (my apology to foreign policies world-wide) work?

      • Mooser
        December 26, 2012, 12:15 pm

        Oh, it’s all Obama’s now, I know that, he made it his own. Dufus.

    • Mooser
      December 26, 2012, 4:12 pm

      He’s (Obama) a poster boy for affirmative action writ large and in every nuance

      Unlike that self-made man, Romney? O BTW, Citizen, which “affirmative action” programs benefited Obama unfairly? I know he got some scholarships and stuff, is that what you are referring to?
      Or is “poster boy (boy?) for affirmative action ” just a generalised slander where you come from? I’m old, and I can’t hear high-frequency noise so well these days, but Dora gets all excited when I read the phrase to her.
      Certainly you can back up your statement, right?

      • Citizen
        December 27, 2012, 8:20 am

        @ Mooser
        Mitt has been the beneficiary of corporate welfare, another form of affirmative action steeped inside the IRS Code. Pretty hard to get the details on all the forms of financial aid the jobless student Obama received for his K-12 schooling and higher education. Obama has not released that information, same as his academic grades have not been disclosed. His seat on the law review required no academic work at all, which is not how most students get such a seat while at law school.

      • Mooser
        December 28, 2012, 1:47 pm

        Ah, I see, and that makes him “a poster boy for affirmative action writ large and in every nuance.”

        Of course, there is no arguing about “affirmative action” and forced diversity and the gay agenda ruling the US, I won’t even bother arguing that, but don’t you think election to the Presidency of the United States, twice, lifts a guy into the “man” rather than the “boy” class?

        Unless, of course, there’s some ‘intrinsic’ reason you deny Obama his manhood.

      • Citizen
        December 29, 2012, 6:49 am

        I don’t deny anybody a hood.

  5. Les
    December 25, 2012, 3:05 pm

    Bromwich essentially repeats what some pschoanalysts have suggested, that Obama has no actual principles.

  6. dimadok
    December 25, 2012, 9:27 pm

    Moving to the next subject- Kerry for the Secretary of State. Any thoughts?

    • Mooser
      December 26, 2012, 10:42 am

      “Moving to the next subject-…” Dimadok

      Man, that “squat and take over” doctrine pervades their entire being, huh.

      • dimadok
        December 26, 2012, 1:03 pm

        Whose being, Mooser?

      • Mooser
        December 28, 2012, 1:48 pm

        “Whose being, Mooser?”

        Sure Dimmy, I’m sorry, I forgot you’re not-a-Zionist.

    • Woody Tanaka
      December 26, 2012, 1:09 pm

      “Any thoughts?”

      Yes, it’s beyond time to end the Zionist occupation of Washington.

      • MHughes976
        December 26, 2012, 6:09 pm

        A chariot driven by Obama, Kerry and Flournoy seems to be driving with quiet determination towards Washington. Does it symbolise the full continuation of Zionist power there?

      • Citizen
        December 27, 2012, 8:22 am

        @ MHughes976
        Information on Flourney is growing; so far, she seems a total hack, bot sans mind of her own.

  7. David Doppler
    December 25, 2012, 11:32 pm

    Hagel presents the question for Obama: is there a Likud Loyalty Litmus Test for appointment to high office. This test is enforced by a very small number of neocon ideologues who have deeply offended vast swaths of America, including Obama himself. Yet Obama appears poised to serve them their biggest triumph – the ability to kill the appointment of a conservative, realist, Republican, long term Senator, decorated Vietnam War vet, because he has not been sufficiently loyal to the Likud government in Israel, which, to anyone watching with half a brain, is ready to play the nuclear option against imagined foes. President Obama, do you serve the Israel Lobby? or the American public?

  8. dbroncos
    December 26, 2012, 1:49 am

    In Obama’s world it seems that all conflict and controversy is a “distraction” to be avoided at all costs. Hence he surrenders over and over before the fights begin, even when public opinion, common sense and the good of the country are on his side. He won’t fight for Hagel. I can’t see him fighting for reforms in our gun crazy culture either. He still has a week left to wave the white flag on taxing the rich as the “fiscal cliff” approaches. I won’t be a bit surprised to see him surrender on that too … again.

  9. HarryLaw
    December 26, 2012, 9:57 am

    This reminds me of Tea party favorite Joe Walsh[R-IL] who had never volunteered for military service in his life, complaining in 2004 that his opponent Tammy Duckworth wasn,t a hero after losing both legs in Iraq, in the same vein, for all his service to his country, including two purple hearts, Hagel is not to be trusted, because he has shown insufficient fealty to Israel, Obama will not defend or tolerate men who cannot be trusted, Obama could not look on his reflection in a mirror again and smile with satisfaction if he did such a thing.

  10. jimmy
    December 26, 2012, 11:06 pm

    sometimes it can be very tough to read this site….
    to read to the extent the israeli lobby controls this government

    I quit voting a few years ago…every member of congress has to be a major supporter of indefinite wars and complete under the lobbies control

    Obama is as big a fake as anyone in this governmnet…will not stand up for anything

    possible he was show JKF assassination…

    I have given up on this government ever doing something brave and right..

    thier involement in the destruction of iraq afhganistan Libya Syria Yemen.. pakistan…is appalling to say the least…

  11. piotr
    December 27, 2012, 1:07 am

    Optimistically, Obama does not have to engage in heavy lifting on behalf of Hagel if it is done for him. Today NYT has two editorials defending Hagel, to mention just one newspaper. To a degree, the hint of wobbling in Administration gives more intensity and breadth to the defense of Hagel. By the way, not only there seems to be an internal war within Jewish Lobby, but even inside Tea Party.

  12. Binyamin in Orangeburg
    December 27, 2012, 10:13 am

    The reason its not a “Jewish lobby” is because they don’t speak for the Jewish American community. Is it not a fact that our most articulate critics of Israel through the decades have been Jewish Americans?

    • Citizen
      December 27, 2012, 5:51 pm

      @ Beinyamin in Orngeburg
      It’s not hard to be a more articulate critic of Israel in America when Gentile critics are forbidden such criticism, and when they make it in public, they are quickly made pariahs. What the hell do you think the Hagel issue is all about?

  13. Mooser
    December 28, 2012, 2:41 pm

    “A bagel for Hagel? A big zero, I mean.”

    When a bagel is cut in half, and the two haves placed next to each other on a plate, they make an infinity sign. This ‘bagel as zero’ idea I find very distasteful.

Leave a Reply