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Hagel Fight Brings Out The Worst In All of Us

The nomination rumor has turned us all into savages

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Former Senator Chuck Hagel(Getty)

Is anyone wistful for the days when character assassinations were carried out so swiftly that we didn’t have time to think about them? Well those days are gone and the struggle over the idea of nominating Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense has outlasted so many media cycles that the very fabric of society is beginning to unravel.

Two examples came up today, weeks after the nomination furor first began. In the Times this morning, James Besser–a former correspondent for The Jewish Week–used the opinion pages to malign people for attacking Hagel. Calling these critics “pro-Israel extremists,” Besser, who was not without a few valid points, still managed to liken Hagel’s opponents to the NRA.

Judging from the National Rifle Association’s clumsy news conference last week, the gun-rights lobby may be nearing a similar public relations cliff. By playing to zealots who reject any government restrictions on firearms, they are not lobbying for the right of hunters to keep their deer rifles, or homeowners to keep their revolvers; they are arguing for the right of anybody, including the most demented people, to own the most lethal firearms, and making the absurd claim that the more Americans who are armed, the safer we will be. As a result, the N.R.A. may soon see its support evaporate among those in the persuadable (and reasonable) middle.

Playing to the extremist fringe could produce short-term gains for pro-Israel groups by rallying the faithful and encouraging big contributions. But—as this year’s election and rising anti-gun sentiment demonstrates—it brings with it the risk of a popular backlash.

The op-ed made the rounds. The American Jewish Committee condemned the screed after coming under attack from Besser. On the other side was J Street, which included Besser’s piece in a fundraising e-mail it sent out in which it echoed Besser’s criticism of the paranoid tone some are taking about Hagel’s imaginary nomination.

Just like criticism of Hagel is warranted, criticism of Hagel’s critics–when properly administered–is also completely warranted. Writing today for The Cable, Foreign Policy‘s Josh Rogin points out how some Republican senators, who once seemed openly in love with Hagel as recently as 2008, are now taking aim at him, even though he’s been out of office since then and has not cast a vote to sully his record.

To “allege that Hagel is somehow a Republican — that is a hard one to swallow,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said last week, criticizing Hagel’s long-ago reference to a “Jewish lobby” and his record on Iran sanctions.

That’s quite a change from the sentiments McCain and his GOP Senate colleagues expressed about Hagel the last time his name was mentioned for high office, when he resigned from the Senate in 2008. At that time, presidential candidate McCain said he and Hagel were “close and dear friends” and that Hagel could have a place in a McCain administration.

“I’d be honored to have Chuck with me in any capacity,” McCain told the New York Times in 2006. “He’d make a great secretary of state.”

In the summer of 2008, Hagel traveled with then candidate Obama and Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) on a trip to Iraq, and rumors swirled that Obama might choose Hagel as his running mate. McCain was all for the idea.

“I don’t know anything about that,” McCain said about the idea of Obama picking Hagel for vice president, “except to say Chuck Hagel is a distinguished veteran and a very dear and close friend of mine and I cherish his friendship and have for many, many years.”

Word on the street is that President Obama may name his nominee for defense secretary as early as tomorrow. Let’s hope he does, otherwise we might not make it to 2013.

Earlier: Imagining Hagel as Secretary of Defense
Don’t Let Pro-Israel Extremist Sink Hagel [NYT]
AJC Response to James Besser [AJC]
Republican Senators Were for Hagel Before They Were Against Him [FP]

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This will be grist for antisemites and their fellow-travelers for years, but ultimately all the hullabaloo obscures the fact that it is Obama’s choice to make. He has more than enough cover from bona fide pro-Israel types to select Hagel over the objections of naysayers, and if he declines to do so, it will be for reasons other than the arguments that have been publicly aired thus far. In fact, Hagel’s most vociferous opponents have given him an excuse for backing away from appointing him, but if he does so it will be for reasons as yet undisclosed and which are likely to remain that way. On a purely speculative note, I can’t imagine Obama is enthusiastic about Hagel’s eoncomium for segregationist Strom Thurmond. Still, it will be be Jews and Jewish organizations who bear the brunt of the blame, among those inclined to assign blame for this sort of thing.

The fact is most of the criticism has been on the issues of his votes on bills that were related to Israel and it’s security concerns as well as his positions on Iran. The issues involving things like gay rights or Armenian Genocide recognition (something Commentary showed a foolish amount of chutzpah and hypocrisy in bringing up) have not really registered the same way.

I think the point being lost in this is that he’s an excellent choice. He’s a military veteran, has sensible views on the limits of America’s military power and understands the need to reign in military spending. America deserves someone like this after all the endless wars and interventions it’s endured.

    Centaur927 says:

    Agree and all in all, Hagel is by and large a moderate Republican with deep qualifications, much like Jon Huntsman, who also served under Obama.

Oh the irony! This guy is a rightwing senator from a rightwing state who came under intense suspicion of finagling his own election as part owner of the very same election machine company used in his election!

Despite this dire dossier, the senator is now being defended by the same liberals who once hated him, and all because he is suddenly a victim of the pro-Israel lobby! Being an Israel-hater makes for strange bedfellows.

PhillipNagle says:

Obama putting Hagel’s name out for consideration shows how anti Israel Obama actually is. It is no accident that he spent 20 years in a church that was virulently anti Israel.

As an openly gay Jew, I’m disappointed that Mr. Hagel’s comments about Former Ambassador James Hormel’s not being the right person because of his gay agenda… was overlooked in this article. Mr. Hagel is a bigot, and should be disqualified on his statements about the Jewish Lobby. He claimed he apologized to the gay community, but Mr. Hormel said he never received a direct apology from Hagel.

There are many good reasons, each sufficient by itself, to block Hagel from being Secretary of State; the two best being his position on Israel and his position on Iran. But it doesn’t matter how the reasons are ranked. Simply put, the man must be blocked!

Robert Starkand says:

Its articles like this that make me turn away from the Tablet. There’s no reason for this website to give antisemites a forum. They pay for plenty of their own and the mainstream media gives them plenty of airtime. And yes, someone who says that American support is based on the Jewish lobby intimidating everybody is an antisemite.

Young Turk says:

The Case of Armenia (printed 1919) p:13
Armenian National Union of America / New York ;

“According to a credible report from a German source, which has been substantiated from other sources, the population of the Turkish Empire has, since 1914, been reduced by 25 per cent. 2,000,000. Turks have perished from all causes, and the percentage of the Turkish losses in Armenia has been heavier than elsewhere, since a considerable portion of Armenia has been invaded by Russia. This means that the number of Armenians in the Armenia to be, will be considerably larger than all the Turks in Turkey, as it is constituted to-day.“

Armenia’s First Prime Minister
Bucharest, March, 1923 Manifesto ;

“The Winter of 1914 and the Spring of 1915 were the periods of greatest enthusiasm and hope for all the Armenians in the Caucasus, including, of course, the Dashnagtzoutiun. We had no doubt that the war would end with the complete victory of the Allies; Turkey would be defeated and dismembered, and its Armenian population would at last be liberated.

We had embraced Russia whole-heartedly without any compunction. Without any positive basis of fact we believed that the Tzarist government would grant us a more-or-less broad self-government in the Caucasus and in the Armenian vilayets liberated from Turkey as a reward for our loyalty, our efforts and assistance.”

Professor Arnold J. Toynbee :
British Foreign Ministry Secret Service Department (War Propaganda Bureau)
Paris Peace Conference Delegate (1919)
King’s College London / Professor of Modern Greek & Byzantine History
Director of Studies Royal Institute of International Affairs – Chatham House

The Western Question in Greece and Turkey
Study in the contact of civilizations / (1922) p.226.227. ;

“In attempting to express and explain the Turkish point of view, I am not seeking to suggest that it is right, or to deny the charges brought against the Turkish nation and Government for their treatment of subject peoples during the past century. Their crimes are undoubtedly exaggerated in the popular Western denunciations, and the similar crimes committed by Near Eastern Christians in parallel situations are almost always passed over in silence. At the same time, the facts substantiated against the Turks (as well as against their neighbours) by authoritative investigation are so appalling that it is almost a matter of indifference, from the point of view of establishing a case, whether the embroideries of the propagandists are counterfeit or genuine.”

Rear Admiral Mark L. Bristol, U.S. Navy
On Board USS ST. LOUIS At Sea.
En route from Island of Rhodes to Constantinople, Turkey. 28 March, 1921
(Upon visiting the region for 1 month) ;

“I see that reports are being freely circulated in the United States that the Turks massacred thousands of Armenians in the Caucasus. Such reports are repeated so many times it makes my blood boil. The Near East Relief have the reports from Yarrow and our own American people which show absolutely that such Armenian reports are absolutely false. The circulation of such false reports in the United States, without refutation, is an outrage and is certainly doing the Armenians more harm than good. I feel that we should discourage the Armenians in this kind of work, not only because it is wrong, but because they are injuring themselves.”

The Adventures of DUNSTERFORCE
by the Commander of Dunsterforce
Major General Lionel Dunsterville – Printed 1920 / London ;

“p.231 The local troops, who were for the most part Armenians, dug very little in the way of trenches, and when urged to do so replied, ” Why should we dig ourselves in ? We do not want to dig ; cowards do that ; we want to fight ! ” They liked to line up in a row just behind the edge of the steep cliff and fire off their rifles at the sky ; they frequently did this when there was no sign of a Turkish attack and when the nearest Turk would be behind cover about 3,000 yards away. Although we were in full view of the enemy’s lines throughout the tour of inspection, the Turks never fired a single shot at my party on this day, which shows that they had more sensible ideas on the subject of controlling ammunition expenditure than our local troops had.

September 12th ; A woman was shot by her lover on the next wharf at lunch time and her screams were dreadful – it was regarded as an ordinary occurrence. These wicked Armenians never cease their Mahomedan atrocities. Last night they raided a Tartar house and when Russian soldiers went to restore order, the Captain’s son was shot and the ship is in mourning to-day – No shelling yesterday. A nasty lull. After many interviews I met, in the evening, for the first time, a representative of the Daghestani-Mahomedans, who put the Daghestani point of view very clearly before me. We have restored order in the Arsenal and have the ammunition supply well in hand. Machine guns and Artillery also – the present supply can be made to last 6 months.”

herbcaen says:

Being an anti-semite doesnt necessarily disqualify someone from being Secretary of Defense. Being unable to identify the enemies of America does disqualify one. Hagel thinks Israel is an enemy and Iran is a friend, even though Iran has killed hundreds of US soldiers in Iraq/Afghanistan and in Beirut in 1982.


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Hagel Fight Brings Out The Worst In All of Us

The nomination rumor has turned us all into savages

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