The problem with Hagel
Chuck Hagel, the President's nominee to be the next secretary of Defense, must face serious questions about his record, his statements, and troubling hints of anti-Semitism.

Reuters

U.S. President Barack Obama's nominee for Secretary of Defense, former Senator Chuck Hagel (L), stands next to counterterrorism adviser John Brennan (R), the nominee for CIA Director, at the White House in Washington January 7, 2013.

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  • Chuck Hagel must face serious questions about his record, his statements, & troubling hints of anti-Semitism. @DPletka

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  • Hagel has been harshly critical of Pentagon bloat – a hint that he will be quiet when it comes to drastic budget cuts.

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  • Hagel has sharply criticized sanctions and opposed the designation of the IRGC as a terrorist entity.

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Presidents are elected by the American people, and have a right to choose their cabinet members. Their nominees, however, have no right to confirmation. And while the Senate has abdicated many of its responsibilities in recent years, it has yet to become a rubber stamp. Chuck Hagel, the president's nominee to be the next Secretary of Defense, must face serious questions about his record, his statements, and troubling hints of anti-Semitism.

Hagel's record is, up to a point, an open book. Once a Republican senator who supported the war in Iraq, he turned against the war, and opposed the surge. Since, he has opposed Obama's surge in Afghanistan, Obama's military action in Libya and the prospect of any role in Syria. In other words, he agrees with the commander-in-chief some of the time. In addition, Hagel has been harshly critical of Pentagon bloat - a hint that he will be more than quiescent when it comes to more drastic cuts in the Pentagon budget.

More troubling than what may simply boil down to a question of differing perspectives is Hagel's history on the Middle East. Long a darling to those eager for rapprochement with Iran, he has sharply criticized sanctions and opposed the designation of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity.

Hagel has decried "intimidation" by the "the Jewish lobby" in Washington. Taken in the context of other positions -- including one incident in which Hagel was the only member of the Senate to decline to sign a letter urging action against rising anti-Semitism in Russia -- and in light of his consistent willingness to downplay the threat posed by terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah, it is not unreasonable to ask whether Senator Hagel has a problem with Jews and the Jewish state.

Last but not least, one must wonder at the president nominating a man with a history of slurs against homosexuals, an A-rating from the National Rifle Association and a zero rating from the pro-choice lobby NARAL, all questions on which Obama is at odds.

Hagel defenders insist these issues would be outside his purview at the Pentagon. Perhaps, but it raises the question of what the president does like about this man.

 

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