After a high-stakes game of musical chairs on Thursday, the stage could be set for Chuck Hagel to take over the Pentagon.
A Hagel move into the Obama administration was first signaled by a White House leak that he’d been fully vetted and reached the top of President Barack Obama’s short-list to replace Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
Hagel is serving as co-chairman of The President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, and is chairman of the neo-liberal Atlantic Council, among other duties and activities. I perceive him as too realistic about policy toward Iran and Israel to make it through the nomination process, should the so-called “Israel Lobby” stand against him.
The first sign that this non-existent lobby might be concerned about a Hagel nomination surfaced Thursday evening, at the White House Hanukkah Party:
On Thursday night, hundreds of American Jewish leaders visited the White House to celebrate Hanukkah, but many also came with a less celebratory agenda: They were there to deliver a warning to President Barack Obama about the potential nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel.
The buzz around the former Republican senator from Nebraska — seen as a top contender to lead the Department of Defense — has Israel supporters worried. Hagel has been a frequent target for Jewish Democratic and Republican groups for more than a decade, even as he is close to Obama, having been a supporter in 2008 and an appointee to the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board.
“He was one of these worst senators in his party in memory when it comes to Israel,” said one Jewish Democratic operative. “It’s a terrible idea.”
By Friday, friends of the imaginary “Israel Lobby” were openly characterizing Hagel in the most unflattering terms. Some had the courage to attach their names to their statements. This one did not, probably because it was so over-the-top (emphases added):
Some Jews and supporters of Israel voiced major concerns about the possible nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel to lead the Defense Department, taking to Twitter and the blogosphere this week to slam the Nebraska Republican.
“Send us Hagel and we will make sure every American knows he is an anti-Semite,” a senior Republican Senate aide told The Weekly Standard. The aide continued, “Hagel has made clear he believes in the existence of a nefarious Jewish lobby that secretly controls U.S. foreign policy. This is the worst kind of anti-Semitism there is.”
Whether or not the totally-fucking-made-up “Israel Lobby” is the “us” the anonymous threatener means is up to you.
Helping fan the flames Friday was Stephen Walt, co-author of a book the above staffer no doubt places in the fiction category, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. Walt praised Hagel as a possible choice:
So the Beltway world is a-twitter (literally) with the rumor that President Obama will nominate former Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb) to be the next secretary of defense. This is a smart move that will gladden the hearts of sensible centrists, because Hagel is a principled, intelligent and patriotic American who believes that U.S. foreign and defense policy should serve the national interest.
The reaction to the endorsement of “the worst kind of anti-Semite” by the author of the 21st century version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was met by heavy, but totally unorganized resistance by spontaneous objection from supporters of the Greatest Democracy in the Middle East. Here’s Front Page‘s Daniel Greenfield (emphasis added):
[T]here are behind the scenes issues and screwing a constituency does not make for good feelings.
The last time this happened was over Chas Freeman Jr, currently doing interviews with Russian propaganda channels about the evils of Israel. Hagel isn’t as terrible a candidate as Freeman, who took money from China and Saudi Arabia, and suggested that China didn’t go far enough in Tienanmen Square, but he’s bad enough.
And when your loudest endorsement for Defense Secretary comes from Stephen Walt, it’s not exactly a good sign for your prospects.
And here’s from the Republican Jewish Coalition’s twitter feed:
Chuck Hagel gets a vote of confidence from the author of the infamous “Israel Lobby” bookhttp://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/12/13/top_five_reasons_obama_should_pick_chuck_hagel_for_secdef … cc:
Although some anti-Semitic Israel haters have claimed in the past that the RJC is part of the hysterically imagined “Israel Lobby,” a check of their series of tweets on Hagel clearly show this is not the case:
@moelane well done – see also our Hagel round-up:http://www.rjchq.org/2012/12/hagel-nomination-would-be-a-gut-check-for-pro-obama-israel-supporters/ … @instapundit
How would Secretary Hagel deal with Iran? He shares some thoughts here: http://www.acus.org/event/iran-issue-brief-launch/transcript … (Hint: “the Brazilian-Turkish point”)
That’s just a sampling from their feed, which is spontaneously continuing to run one tweet after another about this possible nomination. The blog Mondoweiss, is keeping up with pro- and anti-Hagel developments, which will probably deepen over the weekend. From The War Over Hagel is On:
The war over Chuck Hagel’s possible appointment to be Secretary of Defense has begun in earnest, but right now at the fringe: leading the attack are neoconservatives at the Weekly Standard and the Republican Jewish Coalition who surely hope to nip this idea in the bud lest a Republican who has been openly critical of Israel gets a top policy job.
Following an earlier anonymous threat he published from an alleged congressional staffer to paint Hagel as an “anti-Semite,” neoconservative godfather Bill Kristol has published “a fact sheet circulating widely on Capitol Hill” (who knows what that means?) that seeks to portray Chuck Hagel as an Israel-hater who would appease Iran. Some of the fact sheet’s assertions will please those who seek a balanced American policy in the Middle East.
The article’s comments cite more links to many articles and blog posts and tweets that are coming in against Hagel from people who have nothing to do with the purported “Israel Lobby.”
So, the question begs asking, “Will Obama actually nominate this guy?”
I seriously doubt it. My wife, mom and I (we’re visiting my 94-year-old mom in Seattle for the Holidays) discussed this over coffee this morning. They feel that Obama may be about to break from his habit of throwing somebody out there – Elizabeth Warren or Susan Rice, for instance – as bait, only to walk away from them, and nominate somebody else for the open position.
I’m not so sure. I think Hagel is merely more chum, thrown off the stern of the FV Obama.
(semi-snark tag duly attached)
Photo by NestlÃ© under Creative Commons license.