Obama should ignore Republican attacks on defense candidate

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: December 28 2012 | 12:24 pm - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 3:50 am in
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By The Hawk Eye

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Itís a depressing reminder of just how messed up Washington is when Republicans get angry at a Democratic president who might hire a Republican to head the Pentagon.

But last week the Obama administration, facing a fiscal crisis fomented by unyielding Republicans, had to waste valuable time to defend retired Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican.

Hagel is among candidates Obama is considering to replace the retiring Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense. Twice wounded in Vietnam, Hagel served two terms in the Senate before retiring a decade ago.

A rarity in his pragmatism and political moderation, Hagel endorsed Obamaís candidacy in 2008 and now serves on the presidentís Intelligence Advisory Board.

His views and credentials make him a good fit for the task ahead, which is to persuade Congress to slash a staggering Pentagon budget bloated by billions of dollars of projects, personnel and equipment congressmen want for their districts but the Pentagon doesnít want or need.

What has certain Republicans in a tizzy are Hagelís foreign policy positions. As a senator, he referred to ďthe Jewish lobbyĒ and its power to dictate U.S. Middle East policy in Israelís favor, be it at the expense of the Palestiniansí legitimate claims or U.S. security.

Hagel opposes going to war with Iran over its nuclear program, concluding that bombing Iran wonít prevent their acquisition of weapons and may even justify their effort to field them.

On Iran, Pentagon cuts and the Palestinians, polls show Hagel is in lockstep with the views of a majority of Americans. As importantly, he appears to be in sync with the president he has been serving all along on military and security matters.

As confirmation of his observation that pro-Israel lobby groups dictate U.S. policy, the Emergency Committee for Israel says itís planning to air attack ads in the U.S. denouncing Hagelís possible nomination. Republicans used the same smear tactics to derail U.N. Ambassador Susan Riceís elevation to Secretary of State even before President Obama nominated her. She became a scapegoat during his re-election campaign. And while itís ended her career, the tactic didnít prevent the presidentís resounding re-election. Nor should such despicable tactics preclude his choice for future cabinet openings, Hagelís included.

Like Rice, Hagel is being preemptively attacked for his support for dealing with the Palestiniansí legitimate claims, and his reasonable disinclination to have the U.S. bomb Iran. Or to bail Israel out of the mess it will create if its right-wing government launches the preemptive attack on Iran it has been threatening for a year.

There is a difference between being anti-Israel and being Israelís pawn.

Chuck Hagel apparently thinks thatís the way it should be. And most Americans, weary of Middle Eastern countriesí blood-drenched squabbles, agree.

 

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