Monday, December 24, 2012

Why Obama Should Nominate Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense

The White House's trial balloon of former Republican senator Chuck Hagel  as Secretary of Defense has not yet burst, despite rocks thrown at it by the pro-Israel lobby, the anti-Iran lobby, and some members of the gay community. But there is no question that to date there have been fewer defenders than detractors. And now there is Michael Hirsh saying that the White House is "considering others for the job." (Weren't they considering others beforehand? Isn't that what a "leading candidate" means?) So given the likelihood of tough confirmation hearings, wouldn't it make political sense for Obama to drop this ball now?

Perhaps. But the president should go forward with the nomination.  Here's why:

Let's analyze the opposition. The usual gang of vocal neocons and "Israel-firsters" like the Emergency Committee for Israel, can be ignored. These are the people who did their best to defeat Obama and to plunge the US into foreign wars, convincing themselves that there is no daylight between Israel's interests and those of America in order to absolve themselves of dual-loyalties. Do you really think Barack Obama gives a  fig about folks like William Kristol and his ilk? 

True,  the group is doing its best to whip up senators against the nomination. But we are not talking about AIPAC getting Congress to pass one of its pro-Israel resolutions. We are talking about defeating a president's nomination for secretary of defense. Such a defeat is rare; it occurred only  once in the last fifty years when George H. W. Bush's nominee John G. Tower was rejected because of allegations about his private conduct and possible conflict of interest. Some cabinet nominees withdrew their candidacy in recent years, but because of possible legal infractions (employing illegal immigrants, etc.) 

Then we have the Democrat liberal hawks, and while they are not openly supporting Hagel, they aren't saying no either. Chuck Schumer, whose base is very pro-Israel (and some of it quite rightwing) says that he will have to study Hagel's record. Significantly, Jeffrey Goldberg gives Hagel a clean bill of goods on the Israel question. Unfortunately, Goldberg has to strut his pro-Israel creds by taking a false and libelous shot against Stephen Walt, but the bottom line is that he supports Hagel's tough stand on the settlements. 

If the nomination goes through, then Hagel could be facing tough confirmation hearings. I don't think Obama would lose this one,  but even if he did, the confirmation hearings would bring to the center some of the major concerns of the Obama administration -- the criticism of the settlements while at the same backing a democratic Israel, the disinclination to act unilaterally in the Mideast, the desire to eliminate waste at the Pentagon. Win or lose, this would be a powerful teaching moment for the rest of the country. And it could help revitalize the grand tradition of Republican realism that was sidelined when the neocons took over the party and got us into mess after mess.

Still, if past performance is any indication of future results, the administration may pop its own balloon. I am not just referring to the Susan Rice affair. I heard Jim Jones speak at the first J Street Convention a few years ago, as as a representative from a cautious administration. The next year there was no representative.  True, the president doesn't have to get reelected now. But "no-drama-Obama" doesn't like this sort of fight. 

Which would be a pity. Chuck Hagel may be Israel's last chance for survival as a Jewish democracy. That's why liberal hawks like Goldberg are partial to him.  Given my positions, I should be supporting a secretary of state that assists Israel in going over the cliff (like Hillary). 

But this is one cliff I prefer avoiding.
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ginger said...

With Chuck Hagel in at Sec at Defense there will be no war on Iran - with no war on Iran - Israeli Apartheid is LOST

Just witness the Neocon desperation over the Hagel appointment - it speaks volumes and is the same desperation exhibited by Netanyahu last fall as he was being thwarted from pushing the US into Iran -

And see what happened after Netanyahu was stopped.....

Miracle of all Miracles - a Palestinian state was born

Why? - precisely BECAUSE Israel could not stop it by having had pulled off a major regional war engulfing the US - does everybody see that?

The progress at the UN with creation of the Palestinian 'good enough for the ICC state' - the tremendous pressure now being exerted on Israel currently with Fortress Apartheid beginning to collapse - all of this is BECAUSE we prevented Israel from pushing us into a war with Iran. Does everybody really see that?

The Israeli/Netanyahu plan on Iran GONE AWRY is what is making all the changes possible - and here he have the Neocons with their last ditch efforts to get the plan back on track.

They literally have nothing to lose - if they fail with stopping this nomination they won't get Iran, and if they don't get Iran they will LOSE Apartheid

The Hagel appointment means 'no war on Iran' and 'no war on Iran' means the END of Israeli Apartheid - this is the secret - this is why the Neocons are on rampage

dickerson3870 said...

It’s time for Obama to show who's boss, him or William (Bill) Kristol!
If Obama folds (caves in) on Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, he will pretty much spend the next four years as a lame duck president(U.S. President in name only).

WHITE HOUSE PETITION: Urging the Obama administration to nominate Hagel and fight for his confirmation.

ROBERT NAIMAN’S PETITION: President Obama, we have your back. We support your choice of Chuck Hagel to serve as the next Secretary of Defense.

FACEBOOK PAGE: Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense

Jean-Pierre said...

There are many reasons to oppose Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense besides Israel, Anti-Semitism and Iran.

The Huffington Post today featured an op-ed supporting Hagel from the Iranian American Council.

A nuclear bomb over Tel-aviv will not help reform Israel.

A nuclear bomb via an Iranian ICBM will not make a safer America.

Thomas Friedman and many others that are now supporting Hagel are using magical fairy tale thinking not logic and facts. They believe Hagel will slay the ogre Netanyahu and then everyone will live happily ever after.

if you believe that
you can argue that singling out only Jews for exerting too much influence is not anti-semetic. You could argue that the US should accept an Iranian nuclear weapons program or even an Iranian ICBM program. You could argue that Israel should withdraw to the 1967 armistice lines from which it was attacked in return for nothing and still be pro-Israel.

But to me he is the stereotypical Archie Bunker type bigot. His policies have been anti gay (even now after his late and self serving apology he doesn't support equal benefits for gay military families. He is anti-African American (with a 17/100 rating from NAACP and admires Strom Thurmond as a great role model. anti Woman (vs choice and contraception)


Hagel has drawn additional heat from insiders who claim he lacks the credentials needed to manage a department as large and essential as the Pentagon.

“Yes, Hagel has crazy positions on several key issues. Yes, Hagel has said things that are borderline anti-Semitism. Yes, Hagel wants to gut the Pentagon’s budget. But above all, he’s not a nice person and he’s bad to his staff,” said a senior Republican Senate aide who has close ties to former Hagel staffers.

“Hagel was known for turning over staff every few weeks—within a year’s time he could have an entirely new office because nobody wanted to work for him,” said the source. “You have to wonder how a man who couldn’t run a Senate office is going to be able to run an entire bureaucracy.”

Others familiar with Hagel’s 12 year tenure in the Senate said he routinely intimidated staff and experienced frequent turnover.

“Chuck Hagel may have been collegial to his Senate colleagues but he was the Cornhusker wears Prada to his staff, some of whom describe their former boss as perhaps the most paranoid and abusive in the Senate, one who would rifle through staffers desks and berate them for imagined disloyalty,” said Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser on Iran and Iraq. “He might get away with that when it comes to staffers in their 20s, but that sort of personality is going to go over like a ton of bricks at the Pentagon.”

Multiple sources corroborated this view of Hagel.

Jerry Haber said...

Jean Pierre,

I realize that it is important for the Israel Lobby to get Hagel, and I realize that it is important for them to make it look as if there are other reasons so that there won't be pushback against the Israel Lobby. This is how they took out Chas Freeman (China, Saudi Arabia, etc.)

While you are doing research, you may want to find out the sources of the full page ad by the Log Cabin republicans. When was the last time you saw them take out a full page ad on anything.

So Hagel was a republican, and he took stands that were republican. So what? Let him be nominated and let him have his day in the senate. I think Obama's liberal creds are better than yours, Jean Pierre, and when I want to know who is an Archie Bunker bigot, I will trust Obama's judgment on that.

I didn't know he was supported by Iranian American Council

Jerry Haber said...

That's another reason to support him.

Jean-Pierre said...

Yes Jerry Haber he is supported by the Iranian-American Council, by the Iranian government news media, and by

While that may make you want to support him more, it is the opposite of where the majority of the base of the Democratic Party, like myself,feel and vote.

Democratic Senators will not vote for Hagel, and a defeat of such a nomination would weaken President Obama for the rest of his term, just like what happened to Bill Clinton early in his term.

Jerry Haber said...

Jean Pierre,

Since the Iranian American Council, founded by the outstanding Trita Parsi, is essentially liberal and democratic, it makes sense that liberal Democratic senators will agree with it.

Despite all your arguments, no Democratic senator to date has opposed Chuck Hagel's nomination. Even Chuck Schumer, who has a large Jewish constituency, and certainly is friendly to AIPAC, has not come out against Hagel. Heck, only one Republican senator has said he will not vote for him. So on what is your confidence based?

As I wrote, "No-drama-Obama" may not nominate Hagel. Or, as Elizabeth Drew writes in the current NYRB blog, he may have gotten some spine since the election. Who knows? But Hagel, if nominated, will be confirmed. This is the Senate, mon ami, not the (monkey) House. Presidents are respected here.

But I wouldn't worry, if I were you. Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, wlll be beholden to the Military-Industrial complex that dictates the terms of the US-Israeli relationship. His hands will be tied by all those Defense contracts. You'll be pleasantly surprised. And I, as always, will be disappointed.