Chuck Hagel, from Fox News
The delaying of Chuck Hagel’s confirmation in the Senate last Thursday gave neoconservatives an opportunity to dig up further evidence against him, we were told; and in the hours after that filibuster a new claim has emerged against him: that during a Q&A after a 2007 speech he described the State Department as an “adjunct” of the Israeli government. (Something less than what Saturday Night Live said of the US Senate…)
Will the latest charge be enough to sink Hagel? Or will the merits of the alleged statement be debated seriously, at a time when the United States can’t lift its finger against the Israeli settlements? I say No to both questions. Everyone is now so sick of the entire Hagel charade and so wants it to be done with, that the latest allegation will bounce aside. I doubt that Democrats will take this on; they will be satisfied by Chuck Hagel’s Jan. 15 assurances to Chuck Schumer that he is on Israel’s side forever.
Oh and, supporting my view, Lindsey Graham apparently accepts Hagel’s denial of the allegation:
Sen Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told “Fox News Sunday” that he has accepted a new denial from Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) regarding offensive statements the nominee for Defense secretary allegedly made about Israel.
Hagel was said to have told a Rutgers University audience in 2007 that the State Department was controlled by Israel.
Haaretz says the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League want a further review of Chuck Hagel’s record in light of the 2007 quotation:
Two mainstream American Jewish groups called for further review of Chuck Hagel’s record in light of an account of a 2007 speech in which he allegedly said the State Department acted as an “adjunct” of Israel’s foreign ministry…
“Chuck Hagel has served this country, and his state, with distinction, as we have had the privilege to tell him in person,” the American Jewish Committee said… “But in light of his complex record in the Senate and controversial statements he has made since his public service on strategic and political affairs – notably grappling with the range of pressing Middle East issues – AJC believes that further Senate deliberation is called for before any final vote is taken.”
The speech was reported first by George Ajjan, New Jersey blogger and friend to this site; later picked up by the Washington Free Beacon:
Hagel said the U.S. Department of State was an adjunct of the Israeli foreign minister’s office, according to a contemporaneous report of the event.
Republican political consultant and Hagel supporter George Ajjan wrote about the March 2, 2007, speech on his website the following day, writing a description “point by point through some of the more important elements of his speech.”
“The State Department has become adjunct to the Israeli Foreign Minister’s office…”
[Ajjan wrote] “Wow. A very bold statement by Hagel bound to further raise the ire of the ‘Jewish Lobby’ (yawn…), but it does express his strong belief in a comprehensive solution to problems in the Middle East. Hagel mentioned this theme several times – comprehensive, he said, in the sense that all tools should be used to achieve American foreign policy objectives (diplomatic, political, economic, and military), but also comprehensive in the James Baker sense of addressing the Arab-Israeli conflict holistically as both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have proved too lazy and too incompetent to do.”
Reached by phone, Ajjan confirmed his 2007 account of the event, saying he was “taking notes as [Hagel] was speaking.”
Bill Maher says Hagel was right, in a conversation with yet another neocon on his show (thanks to CitizenC):
Jamie Weinstein, senior editor of the Daily Caller, argued that there were still legitimate questions that senators had about Hagel.
“Just yesterday, there was a new speech that they believe in which during the question and answer at Rutgers University, he claimed that the State Department was controlled by the Israeli government,” he argued.
“Based on every statement I’ve heard out of any Republican in the last two years, the Israelis are controlling our government,” Maher quipped.
Meantime, the liberal press is deriding the Hagel standoff as damaging to US security.
With all the challenges the Pentagon faces, including looming budget cuts, “I just think it’s important to have a secretary of defense in place,” said Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), one of the two Republicans who’ve committed to voting for Hagel.
The damage from this standoff could be more far-reaching than the temporary water-treading at the Pentagon, though. The GOP filibuster and breakdown in longstanding comity on defense issues, especially in the Senate Armed Serviced Committee “is way over the line — disgraceful!” military expert and former SASC staffer Charles Stevenson tells The Atlantic‘s James Fallows. Republicans are poisoning the Senate but “also hurting the institution of the office of Secretary of Defense and thus undermining our system of civilian control.” This pitiful hounding of Hagel shows that “the Republican Party has abrogated its role — really, abandoned any interest — in shaping or seriously discussing American foreign policy,” says Fred Kaplan at Slate.
And Gail Collins:
When it comes to the Hagel nomination, McCain is supposed to be the Republican point man. If we were on a Carnival cruise, he would be the captain. A captain who got on the P.A. and announced that the ship was going to Mexico. No, Alabama! No, in a circle! Or maybe we’ll just stay dead in the water until a week from Tuesday and see what happens.
Lindsey Graham evidently shares the fatigue. The show is over, says the Hill:
But Graham indicated in the Sunday interview that he will support ending debate on Hagel when the Senate returns from recess next week even though he considers him “one of the most radical and unqualified choices” to be Defense chief.
Graham said that despite his objections, President Obama deserves deference to choose his Cabinet.
“I give him great discretion,” he said.
P.S. Former vice president Dick Cheney disparages Hagel on Charlie Rose:
So you’ve got problems with Obama’s policies—and his nominations of Chuck Hagel and John Brennan.
With respect to Hagel and Brennan, just in the last week their performances in front of the committees that have to confirm them have been pretty poor. And that’s not my judgment. That’s the judgment of senators on both sides of the aisle. When I think of a secretary of defense for a Democratic administration … Sam Nunn. He’s a tremendous talent, enormous experience. Chuck doesn’t have those credentials. He doesn’t have that stature. I think [Obama] wants a Republican to be the foil, if you will, for what he wants to do to the Defense Department, which is to do serious damage to our military capabilities.
If you were in the Senate, would you vote against confirming Hagel?
Would you put a hold on his nomination?
I’d try to.
Thanks to Annie Robbins.