Lobby leans on Schumer to block Hagel– now that Ackerman, Berman, Frank, Weiner, Rothman and Lieberman are gone

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On Meet the Press this morning, Andrea Mitchell said that Chuck Schumer is “ambivalent” about Chuck Hagel but the opposition is going to need some new information if it’s going to stop Hagel’s appointment as Defense Secretary. Neither Mitchell nor David Gregory could say what Politico says: that Schumer is “the most powerful Jewish Democrat in Congress”:

Schumer has told allies and power brokers in the Jewish community that he’s uneasy about Hagel’s nomination, a concern he reiterated at a private breakfast in Manhattan’s posh Park Avenue Winter restaurant on Wednesday.

Alana Goodman at Commentary picks up on the Jewish community theme and bewails its loss of power in Congress. Oh, and she calls the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs anti-Semitic– a baseless smear, surely having to do with the fact that it’s pro-Palestinian. Goodman:

It’s hard to overstate Schumer’s power in this debate. Pro-Israel Senate Democrats who aren’t getting much guidance on this issue from AIPAC (at least not officially) will look to Schumer for cues. This is particularly important in the case of his fellow New York Senator, Kirstin Gillibrand, whose vote on the Armed Services Committee could be the deciding factor in whether Hagel’s nomination is referred to the floor.

But If Schumer backs him, it would essentially give Hagel’s views the kosher seal of approval, letting the White House claim that any criticism of his Israel record is a faux controversy drummed up by the GOP….

Pro-Israel Democrats should ask themselves this. How did they get to a point where the leader of their party is nominating one of the most anti-Israel senators who ever walked the halls of the Capitol–a man who routinely made the anti-Semitic Washington Report of Middle East Affairs’ annual Congressional Hall of Fame list?

The party is shifting around them. The ranks of the pro-Israel Democrats in Congress are shrinking. Representatives Rothman, Frank, Berman, Ackerman, Weiner, and Senator Joe Lieberman are gone. The advocacy groups and think tanks incubating the next generation of Democratic leaders are increasingly moving against Israel.

Goodman says that young Jews ought to change their party affiliation, just like Irving Kristol sided with the Republicans over Israel back in the ’70s:

There is still a strong up-and-coming generation of pro-Israel Democrats. But they have fewer leaders to look to and fewer roles to fill in the party. If people like Schumer won’t stand up against Hagel, what message would this send to these young activists and operatives working in the trenches? That they should either change their opinions or their party affiliation?

That would clarify things. The Democratic Party will have to make room for critics of Israel.

Another good thing about the Hagel nod: all the talk of who is best for Israel is nauseating the folks on the sideline. Andrew Sullivan:

I’m struck by the following sentences in Politico today:

“Chuck Schumer is quietly letting out the word: He’s far from sold that Chuck Hagel will be a staunch advocate of Israel.”

Isn’t the job in question defense secretary of the United States? Why should an American defense secretary be required to “staunchly advocate” for the interests of another country that isn’t even in NATO? Or put it another way: can you imagine a leading Senator demanding that a defense secretary be a staunch defender of Canada?

Steve Walt said this last week:

neoconservatives and other extremists made it clear just… how much they believed that the commitment to Israel ought to trump other foreign policy priorities. And it wasn’t just the absurd claim that Hagel was anti-semitic; it was the bizarre suggestion that a key job requirement for the U.S. Secretary of Defense was a deep and passionate attachment to a foreign country.

But Jim Rutenberg in the Times says the neocons are still in the saddle, driving the debate on Hagel. He talks about the money:

In fact, the neoconservatives have done anything but disappear. In the years since the war’s messy end, the most hawkish promoters have maintained enormous sway within the Republican Party, holding leading advisory posts in both the McCain and Romney presidential campaigns as their counterparts in the “realist” wing of the party, epitomized by Mr. Powell, gravitated toward Barack Obama.

And while members of both parties think the chances are good that Mr. Hagel will win confirmation, the neoconservatives are behind some of the most aggressive efforts to derail it, through television advertisements, op-ed articles in prominent publications and pressure on Capitol Hill, where some Democrats, including Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, have also indicated reservations.

Their prominence in the fight over Mr. Hagel’s nomination is testament to their continued outsize voice in the public debate, helped by outlets like The Weekly Standard, research groups like the American Enterprise Institute and wealthy Republican financiers like the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, whose nearly $100 million in political donations last year were driven largely by his interest in Israel. The Republican Jewish Coalition, on whose board of directors Mr. Adelson sits, was among the first to criticize the Hagel nomination.

Of course it’s not as if the Democratic Party is anti-Zionist. It’s liberal Zionist, and there’s no criticism allowed of Israel. Not yet anyway. I keep waiting for an open conversation about the religious ideology at the heart of the mess: Zionism.

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