By The Hawk Eye
It’s 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 Obama’s candidacy in 2008 and now serves on the president’s 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 doesn’t want or need.
What has certain Republicans in a tizzy are Hagel’s foreign policy positions. As a senator, he referred to “the Jewish lobby” and its power to dictate U.S. Middle East policy in Israel’s favor, be it at the expense of the Palestinians’ legitimate claims or U.S. security.
Hagel opposes going to war with Iran over its nuclear program, concluding that bombing Iran won’t 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 it’s planning to air attack ads in the U.S. denouncing Hagel’s possible nomination. Republicans used the same smear tactics to derail U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s elevation to Secretary of State even before President Obama nominated her. She became a scapegoat during his re-election campaign. And while it’s ended her career, the tactic didn’t prevent the president’s resounding re-election. Nor should such despicable tactics preclude his choice for future cabinet openings, Hagel’s included.
Like Rice, Hagel is being preemptively attacked for his support for dealing with the Palestinians’ 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 Israel’s pawn.
Chuck Hagel apparently thinks that’s the way it should be. And most Americans, weary of Middle Eastern countries’ blood-drenched squabbles, agree.