Sen. Graham is merely enforcing Sen. Schumer’s ‘behind the scenes’ deal with Hagel — Fineman

The liberal press likes to congratulate itself for being anti-Iraq war these days, but it doesn’t  really have the credentials. In an attack on Dick Cheney on Monday night’s Hardball, Chris Matthews laid the Iraq war at Cheney’s neoconservative doorstep– thereby excusing the Democratic Party supporters of the war, as if they were all just good people hornswoggled by lies.

The segment culminated with Howard Fineman’s statement of the true understanding that exists between Democratic interventionists and Republican hawks: by grabbing Hagel’s ankles, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is merely enforcing Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer’s “behind the scenes” deal with Chuck Hagel.

As you will see below, that deal was all about Israel. Schumer was of course a big supporter of the Iraq war; and my point here is that Democrats, including Matthews and Fineman themselves, were a party to this militant theory of remaking the Middle East they now condemn.

Some of the back-and-forth:

Matthews: Howard, where do you learn to be that evil? I mean, that guy [Cheney] sat there and brilliantly conspired. He had Judy Miller writing the stories for the week, with Scooter feeding her the stuff, get to (INAUDIBLE) they get on “MEET THE PRESS,” does the alley-oop play, acts so avuncular, so sure of himself in his presentation that a lot of middle-of-the-road people bought it.

Does it matter to Chris Matthews that The New York Times published Miller’s stuff? That she comes out of the liberal establishment? That the liberal establishment lay down for that war? But Fineman is enraged at Cheney, too:

FINEMAN: Just watching that again [Cheney appearance about Iraq on Meet the Press], Chris, was both infuriating and upsetting. We lived through that time. We were lied to, flat-out lied to in that way…

MATTHEWS: … I know the trick he — it was almost criminal…Anything that would get that war started, they were willing to say, including sending out General Powell out there with his mission at the U.N.

Right; you were lied to. But you did not oppose the war, because you chose to believe the underlying neoconservative theory. In this other video interview, apparently from 2012, Howard Fineman says that the Iraq War may turn out to have been a wise decision if a democracy emerges in Iraq.

And Chris Matthews also often supported the Iraq war, buying the crazy neoconservative theory that it could remake the Middle East. Now he’s covering his tracks.

At the end of the segment Fineman makes the transition to the Hagel hearing. He says the Republicans need to do some soul-searching (as if he doesn’t share in the Cheney theory of the world) then describes the understanding between Graham and Schumer:

FINEMAN: What`s missing here is that Dick Cheney is the former vice president, is the guy who propounded his theory of the world, and–and his Republican allies on the Hill are not having a serious discussion about foreign policy in defense during these nomination hearings, whether it`s Hagel or Brennan or whatever.

They`re just taking cheap shots all over the place, and they`re not having a serious discussion….

I think that Lindsey Graham is there to be the last annoying guy to make sure that Hagel keeps whatever promises he made behind the
scenes to Carl Levin and Chuck Schumer and everybody else.

Here is Schumer’s “behind the scenes” deal with Chuck Hagel. You will see it is all about Israel. I am saying that Fineman and Matthews ought to openly address the degree to which the special relationship is driving our foreign policy, on both sides of the aisle.

Schumer statement of Jan. 15:

When Senator Hagel’s name first surfaced as a potential nominee for Secretary of Defense, I had genuine concerns over certain aspects of his record on Israel and Iran. Once the President made his choice, however, I agreed to keep these reservations private until I had the opportunity to discuss them fully with Senator Hagel in person.

In a meeting Monday, Senator Hagel spent approximately 90 minutes addressing my concerns one by one. It was a very constructive session. Senator Hagel could not have been more forthcoming and sincere.

Based on several key assurances provided by Senator Hagel, I am currently prepared to vote for his confirmation. I encourage my Senate colleagues who have shared my previous concerns to also support him.

In our meeting Monday, Senator Hagel clarified a number of his past statements and positions and elaborated on several others. 

On Iran, Senator Hagel rejected a strategy of containment and expressed the need to keep all options on the table in confronting that country. But he didn’t stop there. In our conversation, Senator Hagel made a crystal-clear promise that he would do “whatever it takes” to stop Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons, including the use of military force. He said his “top priority” as Secretary of Defense would be the planning of military contingencies related to Iran. He added that he has already received a briefing from the Pentagon on this topic. 

In terms of sanctions, past statements by Senator Hagel sowed concerns that he considered unilateral sanctions against Iran to be ineffective. In our meeting, however, Senator Hagel clarified that he “completely” supports President Obama’s current sanctions against Iran. He added that further unilateral sanctions against Iran could be effective and necessary.

On Hezbollah, Senator Hagel stressed that—notwithstanding any letters he refused to sign in the past—he has always considered the group to be a terrorist organization. 

On Hamas, I asked Senator Hagel about a letter he signed in March 2009 urging President Obama to open direct talks with that group’s leaders. In response, Senator Hagel assured me that he today believes there should be no negotiations with Hamas, Hezbollah or any other terrorist group until they renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist. 

Senator Hagel volunteered that he has always supported Israel’s right to retaliate militarily in the face of terrorist attacks by Hezbollah or Hamas. He understood the predicament Israel is in when terrorist groups hide rocket launchers among civilian populations and stage attacks from there. He supported Israel’s right to defend herself even in those difficult circumstances.

In keeping with our promises to help equip Israel, Senator Hagel pledged to work towards the on-time delivery of the F-35 joint strike fighters to Israel, continue the cooperation between Israel and the U.S. on Iron Dome, and recommend to the President that we refuse to join in any NATO exercises if Turkey should continue to insist on excluding Israel from them. Senator Hagel believes Israel must maintain its Qualitative Military Edge. 

Regarding his unfortunate use of the term “Jewish lobby” to refer to certain pro-Israel groups, Senator Hagel understands the sensitivity around such a loaded term and regrets saying it. 

I know some will question whether Senator Hagel’s assurances are merely attempts to quiet critics as he seeks confirmation to this critical post. But I don’t think so. Senator Hagel realizes the situation in the Middle East has changed, with Israel in a dramatically more endangered position than it was even five years ago. His views are genuine, and reflect this new reality.

On issues related to female and LGBT service members, Senator Hagel provided key assurances as well. He said he is committed to implementing the Shaheen amendment to improve the reproductive health of military women. He also supports the full repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

In general, I believe any President deserves latitude in selecting his own advisors. While the Senate confirmation process must be allowed to run its course, it is my hope that Senator Hagel’s thorough explanations will remove any lingering controversy regarding his nomination.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 17 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Edward Q says:

    One of the obnoxious features of U.S. discussion of Iraq is how Iraqis are excluded. Why doesn’t Fineman ask what Iraqis think about the war?

  2. Empiricon says:

    Matthews is a Beltway cocktail party coward. You can tell which way “progressive” thought is blowing by what he’s saying. In a recent commercial for his Hardball show, Matthews says he’s no hawk but we MUST do something about Iraq, err I mean Iran.

    • Kathleen says:

      Exactly. And then later on if Israel attacks Iran or convinces the US to do it Matthews will say “I was always against an attack on Iran” I was always for diplomacy. Matthews is a weasel about these issues. He keeps forgetting we have easy access to the evidence these days. The man will not even go so far as to have the Leveretts on about Iran. The Leveretts who both worked in Bush 43′S administration. Someone has a good hold of his cajones on these issues

    • Reminds me of that Phil Ochs song,

      Love Me, I’m a Liberal

  3. Les says:

    Take comfort that the coming breakup of the Republican Party will also help to bring about the breakup of the coalition that calls itself the Democratic Party.

  4. Kathleen says:

    Glad you picked that program up brought it up a couple of days ago. I was amazed when Fineman made the Schumer “behind the scenes” statement. Because one would imagine it is so true since Schumer was one of the neocons who led the take down of Charles Freeman. Not sure where Fineman was about the Iraq invasion before the invasion but watched Hardball everyday before the invasion for months. Chris would have Kristol, Gaffney, Frum on and politely undermine them calling them “the best an the brightest” lightly challenging their false assumptions about Iraq. But Chris never EVER went to far as to have Scott Ritter, Brezenski, Ray McGovern, Carter, El Baradei, etc those who were questioning the validity of the intelligence. Chris only went so far and it was not very far at all in the questioning of the WMD lies. Now Chris loves to say “I was always against the invasion” Just like he will say if the neocons are successful at getting the US to attack Iran or support an attack by Israel. Yet Chris has yet to have the Leveretts, Greenwald etc on about Iran. He has had Steve Clemons on who questions the sanity and need to pre-emptively attack Iran and even the sanctions.

    When Matthews and Fineman go as far as Chris Hayes has on the I lobby and Israel then they will be brave reporters/news folks.

    Linked the SNL skit and the ADL’s hissy fit over at Hardball. Challenged Chris to grow some and bring this up…to no avail. Matthews is ultimately too chicken shit…

  5. Kathleen says:

    Kathleen February 12, 2013 at 9:20 am with 1 replies

    Lots on the Hagel vote today. link to google.com

    Last night on Hardball it was odd when Chris Matthews was beating up Cheney for being wrong about everything and for Cheney calling Obama’s picks for his cabinet “second rate” Chris Matthews basically gave a lecture on Kerry’s qualifications but essentially did not stick up for Hagel. Which Matthews did when Obama selected Hagel but not now…why?
    Obama picks second rate people
    link to nbcnews.com
    Kathleen February 11, 2013 at 11:56 pm

    link to nbcnews.com

    Segment with Howard Fineman and Joan Walsh. Fineman mentions promises more than likely made by Hagel to Schumer and Levin for their votes

  6. Kathleen says:

    Those in Ohio know Senator Sherrod Brown will be voting for Hagel have just called Senator Portman’s office and could not get through…heavy call ins. Left a detailed message asking Portman to support Hagel or get out of the way and not support a filibuster. Hope folks are calling their Senators

  7. Sin Nombre says:

    I can’t even stand to watch these guys like Matthews and Fineman anymore. They remind me of those old official Soviet “spokesmen” and diplomats: Absolutely totally aware that they are sitting atop and facilitating a fundamentally corrupt (main-stream media) system, just daily making up whatever narratives that are necessary to keep it going, over-dressed, smug to the point of inviting people to spit at them, insanely proud of their insularity and security and money, and then … oh-so-righteous and sanctimonious about those they oh-so-carefully have selected as their objects of scorn. Carefully selected, that is, to be people or organizations or movements that have no real power, no different than someone showing off by … inveighing and ridiculing people who live in trailer-parks. “Cowards” is right Empericon.

    • American says:

      Sin Nombre says:

      I can’t even stand to watch these guys like Matthews and Fineman anymore.>>>>

      I can’t either….I try to catch Chris Hayes on Sunday am
      but that’s it’….I am totally off all the cable news …..can’t even stand the sound of their voices, any of them…..literally like fingernails on a blackboard effect on me…totally repulsed.

  8. American says:

    Matthews is a whimp. The Dems are the same political ‘hores as the Repubs.
    And Schumer? Schumer is an Israel agent in the US congress, that all he’s ever been, he is 100% pure Israeli.

    Oldie but goodie….Clemons slams him…

    ”Has Chuck Schumer EVER Criticized Israel or its Leadership in the Way He Just Unloaded on Obama?”…04/2010

    excerpts…

    link to thewashingtonnote.com

    ”During major efforts of the George W. Bush administration to get the recess appointed US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton confirmed in the US Senate, Senator Schumer launched a passionate personal campaign to help Bolton succeed.
    Schumer called many Democratic Senate colleagues and bluntly said, “A vote against John Bolton is a vote against Israel.”

    Note to Senator Schumer: you have certainly unloaded a lot of blame on the White House today. I have done a quick lexis and Thomas search and have been unable to find a single instance in which you criticized the behavior of the Israeli government at any time on any issue.
    If we are wrong, we would very much like to be corrected. Please let us know.
    – Steve Clemons

    • Blank State says:

      Wow, Carroll, what a blast from the past that was. Geez, I was really loading it on Clemons by then, wasn’t I??? It still irks me that he was willing to call Schumer out, while ignoring the knee pads 95% of the Dems were wearing, particularly that witch Hillary, who was busy shoving shovel fulls of dirt on the Goldstone Report. Clemons ain’t any better than the rest of the posturing partisan chameleons on both sides of the aisle.

  9. American says:

    OT..in case anyone is interested…at 4:50….1hour,20 min from now

    The White House Thursday, February 14, 2013

    Tune in at 4:50 ET

    This morning, we asked for your response to the State of the Union. In just a few hours, President Obama is going to sit down with a group of Americans for a conversation about that speech and his plan to create jobs and strengthen the middle class.

    *And you should watch it live:*

    *WHAT*: President Obama’s Hangout
    *WHEN*: February 14, 4:50 p.m. ET
    *WHERE*: *WhiteHouse.gov/Live [ link to whitehouse.gov ]*

    The President will talk to Americans from all over the country in a Google+ Hangout. He’ll also take and answer questions that people like you have submitted and voted for.

    It should be a great conversation, so be sure to tune in.

    *http://www.whitehouse.gov/live [ link to whitehouse.gov ]*

  10. Kathleen says:

    tonight on Hardball Beinart said those who oppose the Hagel nomination are “waiting for a shoe to drop”

    McCaskill brings up that Hagel had not endorsed McCain for President. Then they have a clip of former Senator Lugar who talks about the intensity of the resentment towards Hagel.

    link to nbcnews.com

    Phil would be great if Chris Matthews ever did a segment on how many Jewish people have been stepping up to the plate on the Israeli Palestinian conflict and have you Adam, Alex, Annie on his program. Show the public the shift on this issue on his program. Enough of Beinart although he is well spoken but so is the Mondoweiss team

    Chris closed the program by saying “the jackals are on the streets tonight”

  11. Rusty Pipes says:

    The majority of Hagel’s assurances to Schumer are just politics. These are the only relevant points to the performance of his duties as Secretary of Defense:

    Senator Hagel volunteered that he has always supported Israel’s right to retaliate militarily in the face of terrorist attacks by Hezbollah or Hamas. He understood the predicament Israel is in when terrorist groups hide rocket launchers among civilian populations and stage attacks from there. He supported Israel’s right to defend herself even in those difficult circumstances.

    In keeping with our promises to help equip Israel, Senator Hagel pledged to work towards the on-time delivery of the F-35 joint strike fighters to Israel, continue the cooperation between Israel and the U.S. on Iron Dome, and recommend to the President that we refuse to join in any NATO exercises if Turkey should continue to insist on excluding Israel from them. Senator Hagel believes Israel must maintain its Qualitative Military Edge.

    On issues related to female and LGBT service members, Senator Hagel provided key assurances as well. He said he is committed to implementing the Shaheen amendment to improve the reproductive health of military women. He also supports the full repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

    For the most part, especially regarding women and GLBT issues, he has committed to instituting stated policy and taking orders from the commander in chief. He already committed to that much well over a month ago. He can commit to recommend whatever the Israel Lobby wants regarding NATO; however since our participation in NATO involves Treaty obligations (whereas our relationship with Israel is bonded by a “special friendship”), the commander in chief might be guided by additional considerations.

    Congress has already boxed the executive branch in with legislation on QME. The question is how much leeway Hagel would have in interpreting QME regarding equipping and partnering with Israel’s military (as well as coming to the aid of a “special friend” with whom we have not signed a treaty).

  12. chris o says:

    I never noticed the Schumer statement before. It is so unabashed, so transparent. All he cares about are Israel’s security interests. He doesn’t care about Afghanistan. Or Yemen. Or North Korea. Or even our troops in Japan and Germany!

    I think we can call him the Senator of Israel and he would be grateful.

  13. peeesss says:

    Schumer has said in the past to Jewish audiences more than a few times that the name{word} “Schumer” means “Guardian”. He adds, he is and will always be the Guardian for Israel. What else does one have to know about this gentleman.