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

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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.

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