Take It to the Bank, Hagel Will Win

In spite of the attacks the Lobby began against Hagel in mid-December, it failed to block the nomination. What led to this Obama victory?


By James M. Wall


The war against Chuck Hagel followed a predictable pattern. It will end soon when the U.S. Senate votes to confirm Hagel as President Barack Obama’s next defense secretary.

This is one of those rare occasions in American politics when you may ”take it to the bank“,that in a struggle between a U.S. presidential nominee, and the pro-Israel lobby, the presidential nominee will win.

The political war the Lobby will lose began when Lobby forces launched their initial attacks against former Republican Nebraska Senator Hagel’s rumored nomination.

Led by its media and political “myrmidons”  (myrmidon: A faithful follower who carries out orders unquestioningly) the Lobby’s plan followed the usual pattern:

Strike early, suggest a safer nominee, provide liberals with political cover, and then, to whip up emotions from the dark side, play the anti-Semitic card.

Obama made the nomination at the White House on Monday, January 7, where he is shown above with outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, left and Hagel, right.

In spite of the attacks the Lobby began against Hagel in mid-December, it failed to block the nomination. What led to this Obama victory?

Take notes because it is a predictable pattern (remember Chas Freeman) and it will, no doubt, be repeated the next time the Israel Lobby giant senses “danger”.

The “block Hagel” war was officially launched December 18, 2012, when the Washington Post  editorialized that President Obama should not nominate former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel as his defense secretary because the President “ has available other possible nominees who are considerably closer to the mainstream and to the president’s first-term policies.”

Got that, Politics 101 students?  To block a nominee before she/he is named, accuse the possible nominee of being”out of the mainstream”.  Then, in the same opening salvo, bring in a safer, more desirable choice.

The Post offered its “consensus” candidate, Michele Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense, who was described by the Post as “a seasoned policymaker who understands how to manage the Pentagon bureaucracy and where responsible cuts can be made.”

The vote on Hagel, as with other new cabinet appointments, will go first to a Senate committee. (You can tell your Uncle Charlie that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has no say in these matters.  Sorry, Charlie.)

When the nomination of Hagel reaches the Senate floor, a debate will proceed and a vote taken among 53 Democrats, two Independents (both of whom caucus with the Democrats), and 45 Republicans.

What will drive the debate?

Fred Kaplan writes that opponents of Hagel have ” four main concerns” in their disapproval of Hagel.

The first three of their concerns, that he will cut the military budget, “roll over” and let Iran build a nuclear weapon, and be “reluctant” to use military force, are quickly refuted by Kaplan.

The major reason the Lobby has been pushing this war, of course, is Israel, “the third rail” in foreign policy. Kaplan sums up the case the Lobby made against Hagel.

As a senator, Hagel once complained to a reporter that “the Jewish lobby” intimidates many lawmakers on Capitol Hill. And he once intoned that he was a senator from Nebraska, not a senator from Israel. These may have been impolitic remarks, but they weren’t false – either in strict substance or in spirit.

No one could deny that AIPAC has an overpowering influence on many lawmakers. Hagel’s sin, in the eyes of some, was to call it the “Jewish lobby” instead of the “Israel lobby.” If this is a sin, AIPAC and its allies have brought it on themselves. For decades, they have thundered that criticism of Israel is thinly disguised anti-Semitism.

MJ Rosenberg, who writes that “I worked at AIPAC for four years and in Congress for 20″, sees the outcome of the war against Hagel from the perspective of one who “knows how the game is played”.  He predicts that AIPAC, his old organization, will signal to the anti-Hagel forces that the war is over, so stand down. Rosenberg writes:

AIPAC will claim it was not involved in the effort to prevent Hagel’s nomination. That is a lie. AIPAC never operates in the open. It uses cutouts in Congress, the media and smaller fringy organizations like the Republican Jewish Coalition and the Emergency Committee For Israel to do the dirty work so it can keep its hands cleans.

Anyone who thinks that Commentary, the American Jewish Committee, the Free Beacon, the “pro-Israel” bloggers, pundits and Alan Dershowitz do not get their marching orders from AIPAC is living in a dream world.

When Hagel’s name initially was floated, New York’s Democratic Senator Charles Schumer said  he would wait and see how the debate proceeded.  The possibility of a party leader of the stature of Schumer going against President Obama is quite unlikely, especially after New York Times columnists Nicholas D. Kristof, Thomas Friedman and Roger Cohen, wrote their pro-Hagel columns.

Here is Kristof:

Critics are pounding President Obama’s choice for defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, as soft on Iran, anti-military and even anti-Semitic. This is a grotesque caricature of a man who would make a terrific defense secretary.

It’s true that Hagel harbors a healthy skepticism about deploying American troops. That’s because he also harbors shrapnel in his chest from Vietnam and appreciates the human costs when Pentagon officials move pins on maps.

In Vietnam, Hagel rescued his unconscious brother (who served in the same unit) from a troop carrier that had hit a mine. The incident left Hagel with blown eardrums, bad burns and an important take-away.

“I’m not a pacifist. I believe in using force, but only after a very careful decision-making process,” Hagel later told Vietnam magazine.

Rober Cohen sees the choice of Hagel as an essential moment in provoking a needed debate:

Obama’s decision to nominate Chuck Hagel, a maverick Republican with enough experience of war to loathe it, as his next secretary of defense is the right choice for many reasons, chief among them that it will provoke a serious debate on what constitutes real friendship toward Israel.

That debate, which will unfold during Senate confirmation hearings, is much needed because Jewish leadership in the United States is often unrepresentative of the many American Jews who have moved on from the view that the only legitimate support of Israel is unquestioning support of Israel, and the only mark of friendship is uncritical embrace of a friend.

Friedman wrote a recent column, “Give Chuck a Chance” that included this declaration:

I am a Hagel supporter. I think he would make a fine secretary of defense — precisely because some of his views are not “mainstream.

Outside the Times orbit, Josh Marshall, of Talking Points Memo, poses political questions and provides direct answers:

Will Republicans uniformly oppose a former member of their own caucus when the issues at stake are complaints that look comical when held up to the light of day? One who was one of the top foreign policy Republicans in the Senate? I doubt it.

Will Democratic senators deny a reelected President Obama his choice for one of the top four cabinet positions when he is quite popular and the expansion of their caucus is due in significant measure to his popularity? Please. Chuck Schumer will oppose the President? Not likely.

A final word on Hagel comes from long-time Israeli anti-war activist Uri Avnery, who writes in support of Hagel from a shared view drawn from actual war experiences.

I find Chuck Hagel eminently likeable. I am not quite certain why.

Perhaps it is his war record. He was decorated for valor in the Vietnam War (which I detested). He was a mere sergeant. Since I was a mere corporal in our 1948 war, I find it elating to see a non-commissioned officer become Minister of Defense.

Like so many veterans who have seen war from close up (myself included), he has become an enemy of war. Wonderful.

Now Hagel is violently attacked by all the neocon warmongers, almost none of whom has ever heard a bullet whistle in the wars to which they sent others, and the combined political regiments of the American Jewish establishment.

His main sin seems to be that he objects to war against Iran. To be against an attack on Iran means to be anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic, indeed to wish for the destruction of Israel if not all Jews. Never mind that almost all present and past chiefs of the Israeli army and intelligence community object to an attack on Iran, too.

Hagel will be confirmed.  You can take it to the bank.

James Wall blogs at Wallwritings

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3 Comments for “Take It to the Bank, Hagel Will Win”

  1. This is the time to call your senatorial offices in Washington. Don’t send an email. Don’t just give a “yes for Hagel” voice vote to the receptionist. Ask to speak with the military fellow (typically a major or lieutenant commander spending a year there) – these are the guys who are handling this issue for most senators. If you are a veteran yourself, say so. Direct attention to the columnists in this article, and to groups like the Israel Policy Forum who strongly endorse Hagel.

    I am not a big fan of this approach, but I decided to try it, and was pleasantly surprised at the response. Give it a shot. Well worth the time. And only call the offices of senators from your home state.


  2. I consider that Chuck Hagel is eminently suitable to be the next Secretary of Defence as he has what the US needs now and has done for some years, an independent and honest view of important matters, one not tainted by the Ziocons and a view which is supported by a determined sense of America first, second and third, a point which comes across quite clearly. What a refreshing change he will be from the likes of Ms Clinton, Zionists fellow-traveller who sold out America to become a voice for Israel, to the exclusion of anything else.
    Let us all hope that her blood clot will put paid to her ambitions to become Empress of America in 2016.

    If the world is tired of anything other than wars, it is tired of the consideration given to the Israel fifth column, AIPAC and the Jewish throng who, according to one of their own, a proven lying Zionist, Elliott Abrams, of Iran-Contra infamy, they are told to “stand apart” from the country in which they live, a country that has given them a home for 60 + years.
    By any interpretation, this means that Jews are mentored by Abrams that they are not to be a part of the life of the US, which is by any stretch of one’s imagination is an elitist and arrogant stance, hardly designed to make a serious contribution to a better America.
    In fact, the opposite applies, as it runs counter to any sign of being a committed American at all. An Israeii, through and through.

    One is forced to ask what it is in the Jewish makeup that makes them need to see themselves as a superior race, needing to “stand apart”. Their actions over time have put paid to any such claims.

    And some of these people are the Senators who will sit in judgement in confirmation hearings very soon, in judgement on a man like Chuck Hagel, the personal preference for the role and chosen by the President of the US?
    Is there anything that could be more out of step with good government and good sense than to have Senators compromised beyond belief in many cases, passing judgement in this matter?

    It is an insult to the man himself whose loyalty to his country could buy and sell them all.

  3. Stephen Sniegoski

    Wall makes some good points and certainly the conventional wisdom is that Hagel will be confirmed. I still do not think it is a done deal and that Hagel still can be so smeared as to stop his confirmation…

    I thought the following were some interesting tidbits on the destroy Hagel effort.

    The anti-Hagel forces also might bring the feminists to their side, who are concerned about Obama’s failure to appoint women in the key Cabinet posts. The alternative to Hagel is Michele Flournoy who has been endorsed by Paul Wolfowitz.

    Flournoy was a signatory of a PNAC letter back in 2005

    Left-liberal Democrats at the Dailykos not only want a woman as SecDef but claim Hagel is corrupt.

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