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Posted by on Jan 31, 2013 in International, Politics | 13 comments

Why Chuck Hagel Is Being Attacked

I just watched a bit of Chuck Hagel’s confirmation hearings on TV and saw Senator John McCain in full, aggressive tone, attack mode. Why? John Avlon nails it in a CNN post offering reality checks for Hagel’s critics:

The final reality check relates to the conservative senators who have criticized their former colleague. In 2006, John McCain said he’d be “honored to have Chuck with me in any capacity. He’d make a great secretary of state.” But after Hagel was nominated by Obama, McCain questioned Hagel’s “overall attitude toward the United States and the world.”

Yes and that is how it has gone, hasn’t it? This kind of partisanship where assertions are….ahem…flexible (McCain veers on again, off again on this and has been mostly off again for the past few years) may please fans of Fox & Friends, Rush, Seah, and Mark, but even a head of lettuce on the shelf at the produce department at Safeway can see it for what it is. I suspect it won’t play well with a)independent voters and, more importantly, b)moderate voters (who gave Barack Obama lots of votes in the election and boosted him in a recent poll).

And, Avlon notes, McCain is not alone:

Republican leader Mitch McConnell also broadly praised Hagel as recently as 2009, saying, “Chuck has earned the respect of his colleagues and risen to national prominence as a clear voice on foreign policy and national security.” This generous perspective is unlikely to be recollected by conservatives during the confirmation hearings.

And here is where Avlon really hits the pundit bullseye:

Since his nomination, Hagel has been diligently working the corridors of Congress, trying to address concerns directly. He’s also met with leaders of organizations like the Anti-Defamation League and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to address the accusations behind closed doors.

Consider the attacks on Hagel against the backdrop of facts, with a sense of perspective. And then look at the staunch defenders of Hagel’s nomination: Republican Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell, Reagan’s respected Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci and the first President Bush’s national security adviser Brent Scowcroft.

The bottom line: Chuck Hagel is squarely in the Main Street Republican tradition. That he is being relentlessly attacked by some neoconservatives reflects how much their “you’re either with us or against us” attitude has strayed out of the historic mainstream.

Policy differences can and should be debated, but stooping to personal smears smacks of desperation. It is doubly ironic because Hagel’s appointment by a Democratic president is designed to help re-center American foreign policy, reminding us all of some forgotten Cold War era wisdom articulated by Republican Sen. Arthur Vandenberg during the Truman administration: “Partisan politics ought to end at the water’s edge.”

Some of today’s partisans seem to think partisan politics ends when the toilet has totally overflowed.

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  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Amen on all counts, Joe!

  • slamfu

    Just more of the same knee jerk obstructionism that has characterized the GOP since Obama got elected. They know they are catering to the voters that don’t care if its shear hypocrisy, won’t check, and won’t care even if its pointed out. On the plus side, the last election showed those people are in the minority, finally.

  • zephyr

    Well said Joe. It’s a sad state of affairs and there is no justification for it.

  • dduck

    Since Kerry flew through his confirmation (3 against), I can’t this as a partisan thing with Hagel.
    So, what is the real reason the Reps seem to not want him in as SOD???????

  • jdledell

    dduck – Chuck Hagel is a very strong willed person. He simply cannot be pushed around by those who want him to do their bidding. So the real reasons for the confirmation troubles are the same ones reported in the press. Namely, Israel is absolutely dead set against Hagel for fear that he will convince Obama not to attack Iran. While Hagel is not a pacifist he really means it when he says war is a LAST resort. Israel feels that while a nuclear threat from Iran exists, immigration of Jews to Israel will decrease and emmigration of Jews out of Israel will increase. That is an existential threat to Israel whether or not Iran ever attacks.

    You can couple Israel’s concern with neo-conservatives concern that Hagel and Obama together will sharply tone down an aggressive US military posture around the world. Neo-conservatives like being bullies. Also defense contractors are concerned for their economic health if the defense department sharply reduces hardware purchases, as is speculated Hagel would love to do.

  • cjjack

    Since Kerry flew through his confirmation (3 against), I can’t this as a partisan thing with Hagel.
    So, what is the real reason the Reps seem to not want him in as SOD?


    Hagel is a Republican. A Republican who broke with his party over the Iraq war, and is now up for a job within the hated Obama administration. The GOP is so stridently opposed to everything Obama does that I genuinely believe if he proposed putting Reagan’s face on the 50 dollar bill, and hatched a plan to put armed Christian ministers in every public school in America, they’d figure out a way to be against both of them.

    Hagel has committed the cardinal sin of actually accepting a posting within the administration of the object of all the GOP’s fury. He is being punished for putting country before party.

    He is not alone. Jon Huntsman doomed his chances as a GOP candidate by accepting a position with the Obama administration. Despite a solid record as a business friendly Republican governor who was probably more qualified to be President than Obama himself, Huntsman was marginalized for his apostasy. Should Chris Christie ever explore seeking the GOP nomination in 2016, he will have to answer for that time a few months ago when he dropped all partisan pretense and happily worked with Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

    Hagel’s views on Iraq, Iran, and even Israel are really kind of irrelevant. The fact that he considered taking a job in a Democratic administration is what has brought down the wrath of his former colleagues.

  • epiphyte

    Can you imagine where we’d be if that guy had been in the oval office for the past four years? We sure dodged a bullet on that one…

  • dduck

    Thanks for the input.

  • slamfu

    Kerry flew through the nomination because they wanted a democrat senate seat opened up in MA. That was it. It had NOTHING to do with them thinking Kerry was the right guy for the job, I assure you.

  • dduck

    Really, are they that shallow. 🙂

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Slamfu says:

    Kerry flew through the nomination because they wanted a democrat senate seat opened up in MA. That was it. It had NOTHING to do with them thinking Kerry was the right guy for the job, I assure you.

    I had similar suspicions, slamfu, but it seems now that those Republican shenanigan tricks may be coming to naught:

    Former Massachusetts Republican senator Scott Brown will not run in the special election for outgoing Democratic Sen. John Kerry’s seat, according to a Republican source familiar with his plans. Brown’s decision means Kerry’s seat is very likely to remain in Democratic hands.

    Brown’s decision leaves Republicans without a top candidate for the seat held by Kerry, who was confirmed by the Senate to be the next secretary of state earlier this week. On the Democratic side, longtime Rep. Ed Markey is the frontrunner, but he faces a challenge from fellow Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch, who is much more conservative.

  • dduck

    Wow, shallow and wrong. 🙂

  • bluebelle

    Agree with Cjack.
    The GOP on the one hand attacks the President for being the most divisive in history, yet on the other eats one of their own for lunch for having the temerity to try to work in a bipartisan fashion and bridge the gap.
    That is verboten in today’s jack booted Republican party. The hearings were sickening — vilifying an honorable man -interrogating him as though he were some kind of criminal instead of a public servant who has served honorably and successfully. I keep wondering how McCain and Graham can get any worse, and they keep surprising me with new lows of behavior.

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