Chuck Hagel: why his candidacy for Defense post is losing altitude
Critics of Chuck Hagel's potential candidacy have focused on remarks he made years ago about Israel, Iran, and Hamas. Some even called him anti-Semitic, a charge branded as outrageous, even by other critics.
President Obama’s potential nomination of Chuck Hagel, a former two-term Republican senator from Nebraska, to be his next secretary of Defense is now being dubbed “flailing” before it was even confirmed.Skip to next paragraph
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Much of the discussion, and the principal source of Mr. Hagel's vulnerability, revolves around remarks he made, some dating back several years, on US policy toward Israel, Iran, and Hamas. Some critics are wondering aloud whether he is sufficiently supportive of Israel, while others are even going so far as to suggest he is anti-Semitic, a charge that Hagel’s defenders, and even some of his detractors, have branded as outrageous.
At issue in particular is Hagel’s use, in a 2006 interview, of the descriptor “Jewish lobby” to refer to the pro-Israel lobby in Washington, which includes US Christians, too, and which Hagel accused of “intimidating a lot of people.”
These comments, along with Hagel’s support of dialogue with Iran and Hamas, both sworn enemies of Israel, prompted an unnamed Republican Senate aid, quoted in the conservative Weekly Standard, to promise of the potential nominee, “Send us Hagel and we will make sure every American knows he is an anti-Semite.”
On Wednesday these charges were met by a published letter from four former US national security advisers, who wrote to “strongly object, as a matter of substance and as a matter of principle, to the attacks on the character” of Hagel, noting that such treatment will “only discourage future prospective nominees from public service when our country badly needs quality leadership in government.”
Those sentiments aside, Hagel’s former colleagues in the Senate are not exactly rushing to his defense. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who in 2008, as the Republican presidential nominee, said there might be a place for Hagel in his own administration, recently expressed reservations about Hagel’s candidacy for the Defense post, calling his remarks about the Israel lobby “inappropriate.”