Skip to comments.'Bottom of class' Hagel's bid draws frosty reception (Hagel on short list for Sec Def)
Posted on 09/04/2010 12:43:14 PM PDT by bkopto
Former Republican senator Chuck Hagel raised many Jewish eyebrows in 2007 when he informed an Arab American crowd that his support for Israel is not "automatic."
Many of those same eyebrows were lifted again last week after several reports indicated that Hagel -- who's taken heat over the years from Jewish groups for his statements about Israel and the Middle East -- is on the short list to replace Secretary of Defense Robert Gates when he steps down from the post next year.
Anything short of automatic support for Israel by America's defense secretary could be disastrous for the Jewish state, according to several Jewish political and pro-Israel observers.
"I would regard him as the bottom of the class as far as Israel goes," said Morris Amitay, a former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and treasurer of the Washington PAC, a pro-Israel political action committee.
Hagel has long been jockeying for a prominent position within President Barack Obama's administration, noted Amitay, who believes that the former senator's foreign policy positions would fit seamlessly with the president's.
Following Gates' announcement two weeks ago that he planned to resign some time in 2011, Hagel emerged as a natural successor.
Last week, he publicly threw his support behind embattled Pennsylvania Democrat Rep. Joe Sestack, whose race for re-election has transformed into a proxy war between liberal and conservative pro-Israel outfits.
Hagel reportedly is being touted by National Security Adviser Jim Jones, who is said to believe that Hagel could serve as a prominent Republican defender for the administration, according to a report by Politico.
"Hagel would be in a position to reinforce the worst aspects of the administration's current Middle East policies, which would be very dangerous for Israel," Amitay noted, pointing to what he said are the former senator's "troublesome" foreign policy views.
Last year, for instance, Hagel signed a missive urging Obama, whom he had backed for the presidency, to open direct negotiations with Hamas. As a lawmaker from Nebraska, he had refused to sign several congressional statements backing Israel, and he has advocated direct, unconditional talks with Iran, a stance that irks many Jewish politicos.
"Given his long, questionable record and the clear problems his nomination would cause -- not to mention the volumes of criticism by other Democrats for his rank hostility to Israel -- it is hard to believe that the White House would want to make such a risky choice at precisely the time we are asking the Israeli to 'trust us' on Iran and the Arab-Israeli conflict," said a longtime Jewish political operative, who declined to speak on the record so as not to be seen prematurely criticizing the Obama administration. "I wonder how [Hagel's] career-long effort to derail sanctions to stop Iran's nuclear problem will comfort the Israelis or our Arab and European allies at this critical juncture?"
Even at this early stage, the source added, Jewish insiders are concerned: "It's obviously a source of serious concern that the administration has not knocked these rumors down and made clear they're not considering Hagel for any such job."
A White House spokesperson declined comment last week, and Pentagon spokesperson Geoff Morrell said via e-mail: "I don't play these silly Washington parlor games. Such speculation is an absolute waste of time."
Shoshana Bryen, senior director for security policy at the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, explained that Hagel is attractive to the administration for several reasons: He "shares the president's belief that Iraq was a bad war," aims to cut the defense budget and seeks closer relations with the Arab world.
What do these views mean for Israel?
"A slowdown in things Israel needs or wants," such as military equipment, Bryen said.
Some observers with conservative foreign policy views say that Hagel's outlook jibes perfectly with what they characterize as the Obama administration's hostile stance toward Israel. Jewish Democrats dismiss that view outright.
The administration, they say, is firmly pro-Israel, and while Hagel likely desires the top defense position, Obama won't soon hand it to him.
"Clearly, Hagel has a mixed record on Israel, but that record frankly puts him at variance with the president's own policies vis-a-vis Israel," said David Harris, president and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council, adding that, for now, "speculation is just that."
Asked about the reports that Hagel is on the short list, one Democratic operative who campaigned for Obama in the Jewish community responded: "If he was in fact appointed, I would find his appointment difficult to reconcile with my views of the administration."
Others wondered if powerful pro-Israel groups, such as AIPAC, would be willing to flex their political muscle to challenge the president on a potential Hagel nomination.
An AIPAC spokesperson declined comment, but Amitay doubted that the group would oppose Hagel were he to be nominated by Obama.
"AIPAC doesn't like to throw its weight around too much," he said. "I don't think they would come out to oppose it."
Noted another D.C. Jewish community professional who is in contact with the White House: "I have to think that the mainstream Jewish communal organizations would have meaningful problems with it, but it's for that reason I see it as highly unlikely Hagel would be a [realistic] defense pick."
Several of those contacted, including the organization J Street, declined comment, but Hagel does have his supporters. Most, though, operate outside the Jewish communal realm.
Steven Clemons, senior fellow and director of the New America Foundation's American Strategy Program, said Hagel would do well at the Pentagon because he'd aim to "twist the Rubik's Cube in the Middle East in a direction where you can solve" problems surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Plus, Hagel opposed the Iraq war and has said it's time to leave Afghanistan.
"I think he's a serious candidate," Clemons said. "He's been vetted in so many different ways" by the administration, and his approach to the Middle East could benefit the peace process, as well as America's relations with Arab countries.
They voted for him, now they’re stuck with him. Serves them right.
I think that Clarisse Feldman, at American Thinker, who used to post on FreeRepublic as Fedora, has a whole lot of information on Hagel and his Middle Eastern connections. She hasn’t posted on FreeRepublic in a very long time, so I suggest that you contact her at American Thinker.
Why would anyone be surprised that a man like Hagel who does not suport Israel would be on the Muslim President’s short list for Secretary of Defense.
Of course he is on the short list and will probably get the job.
>>>>>>>>>Asked about the reports that Hagel is on the short list, one Democratic operative who campaigned for Obama in the Jewish community responded: “If he was in fact appointed, I would find his appointment difficult to reconcile with my views of the administration.” <<<<<<<<<<<
Now: There’s a friggin idiot. What rock has he been hiding under while Obama put’s the screws to Israel, and sucks up to the Muslims.
Hagel made MCCAIN look like an honorable, pro-American conservative!!! And THAT’S damned difficult to do.
The first hit that I got on Fedora and Chuck Hagel is this -Chuck Hagel: $1,000 from IAPAC to the Hagel for Senate Committee on 10/02/2006 (Iranian Ameican Pac).
Hagel, as I recall was tightly involved with Elias Aburdene, who was also tightly tied to Joe Wilson.
I don’t have time to get into all this, but I strongly suggest that you contact Fedora (Clarisse Feldman, at American Thinker) She’s a wonderful source.
Might as well dig up Les Aspin.
I thought maybe this was the angle when he endorsed Sestak. It would signal that Obama is done with the war too.
The photos of ex-Senator Hagel just have the pinched, prissy appearance of a major prick.
Jews should vote Republicans..
David Harris is a Democrat well before he is a Jew.
I doubt the vast majority ever will.