When David Gregory asked President Obama yesterday about the Chuck Hagel controversy on “Meet the Press,” he pretended that it was a controversy over 14-year-old gay slur by Hagel, for which the former senator has apologized, as Obama was quick to point out.
This was deceptive. The “criticism” Gregory mentions has come chiefly from the Israel lobby– over Hagel’s resolve that we should not go to war with Iran and his belief that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at the heart of the troubles in the Middle East.
From the transcript:
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?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:
Well, first of all, I haven’t made a decision about who to nominate. And my number one criteria will be who’s going to do the best job in helping to secure America.
Anything disqualify– … him?
PRESIDENT BARACK 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 I think that anybody who serves in my administration understands my attitude and position on those issues.
I see that MJ Rosenberg and Andrew Epstein have discussed this, on twitter:
Andrew Epstein @andEps @davidgregory pretends Hagel controversy is about 10yr old homophobic comment, struggles to keep a straight face.
@MJayRosenberg David Gregory is a very proud Israel Firster
I don’t know if Gregory is an Israel Firster, to use the phrase that Rosenberg has inserted into the discourse to signify people who think about Israel’s security first. But the calculated omission certainly raises the question. Gregory is protecting the Israel lobby from any form of scrutiny. That makes it harder to argue about the strength of the lobby, when leading journalists cover for it.
And Gregory several times referred to the National Rifle Association’s arguments in the context of the Connecticut shooting.
Gregory is Jewish, and the omission is more evidence that this conversation won’t be complete without a Jewish conversation about, Do we feel a need for a Jewish state? If so, why?
Oh also, neoconservative David Frum cracks that Hagel is unqualified because even if he were the B’nai Brith’s man of the year, he lacks the administrative chops to supervise the Pentagon’s build-down. “Hagel’s supporters offer a case in his favor that would superbly qualify him as Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs in the Nixon administration,” Frum says. This is a shot at “Arabists.” Near East Affairs is where foreign service officers who cared about Arab self-determination typically made their careers in a different era. The jab shows that Frum actually does care about Hagel’s views on the Middle East, and shows why so many people support Hagel: because he would show greater respect for the self-determination of peoples, even Israeli-Palestinian people.