Only days ago, it looked like Chuck Hagel was sailing to a quick confirmation as the nation’s new Secretary of Defense by the end of the week. Despite a shockingly poor performance at his Senate hearing, Senate Democrats closed ranks around him. With a couple of Republican supporters and most of the GOP caucus — especially the influential Senator John McCain — declaring they would not support a filibuster of his nomination, Hagel seemed certain of victory. But Hagel’s failure to produce information about income from speeches he had given and the White House’s continuing stonewall of Republican efforts to find about more about the Benghazi disaster have combined to stymie administration efforts to confirm him before Congress breaks for the President’s Day holiday.
Senior Democratic aides told Politico today that Senator Harry Reid doesn’t have the 60 votes he needs to stop a Republican filibuster when the Senate votes tomorrow on whether Hagel’s nomination can receive an up or down vote. That places him on hold at a crucial moment. Some Republicans are backing the roadblock to a vote only as leverage to get the administration to surrender material about the president’s involvement in the Benghazi decision-making process. But the delay may allow more damaging information to come to light about Hagel that could fundamentally alter the dynamic of the debate about his suitability for high office.
As our former colleague Alana Goodman reports at the Washington Free Beacon, a contemporaneous account of a 2007 speech given by Hagel at Rutgers University claimed the U.S. State Department had become an “adjunct to the Israeli Foreign Minister’s Office. These words were recorded in a blog written at that time by Hagel supporter George Ajjan who confirmed the veracity of the post to Goodman.
This statement is consistent with Hagel’s 2006 claim that the “Jewish lobby” was intimidating Congress and shows a mindset of hostility to the U.S.-Israel alliance. Ajjan’s post about Hagel’s speech makes interesting reading today as it demonstrates the former senator’s views opposing isolation of Iran, a key point in the context of President Obama’s declared policies about Tehran.
Senators should demand that Hagel explain this remark as well as provide the information they’ve asked for about his speeches to various Arab groups to whom he may have made similar remarks about Jews and Israel. So, too, should the Jewish organizations that have been silent about Hagel’s nomination out of fear of offending President Obama.
More to the point, pro-Israel Democrats like Chuck Schumer should use these latest revelations as justification for reversing their lukewarm endorsement of Hagel. All it will take is one wavering Democrat to abandon the Nebraskan for his nomination to unravel. And the longer the process drags on the more likely it will be that this might happen. The accumulation of damaging information about Hagel combined with the incompetence he demonstrated at his confirmation hearing, should lead Republicans to hang tough on his nomination.
The GOP should ignore the huffing and puffing about the unprecedented nature of their attempts to stop the Hagel nomination. It may be that a filibuster of a Cabinet appointee is a rare event and should not be undertaken lightly or at the expense of a qualified candidate. But Chuck Hagel is not such a person.
As he demonstrated at his hearing, Hagel is not prepared to deal with the issues facing the Pentagon or the nation and doesn’t even consider this important post to be one in which policy is decided. His offensive remarks about American Jews and Israel are in of themselves a reason to ask the president to drop him and bring forward another, better person to lead the Pentagon. But the effect of his nomination on Iran’s opinion of the administration is an even better reason to drop him. They clearly regard Hagel’s appointment as a sign that the United States isn’t serious about stopping their nuclear plans and would never use force even after diplomacy had failed.
If there was ever a nomination that deserved to be filibustered, it is Hagel’s. The Senate Republican caucus has good reason to hold up any vote on him. The latest revelations about his views should also encourage Democrats to dump him.