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Obama Still Considering Hagel


December 30, 2012 "
Politico" -- President Barack Obama says he hasn't decided on a nominee for defense secretary, but suggested former Sen. Chuck Hagel is still in the running.

Asked by NBC's David Gregory if anything disqualified the Nebraska Republican from the post, Obama said "Not that I see."

"I've served with Chuck Hagel. I know him. He is a patriot," Obama said during an interview broadcast Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." "He is somebody who has done extraordinary work both in the United States Senate, somebody who served this country with valor in Vietnam - and is somebody who's currently serving on my intelligence advisory board and doing an outstanding job."

The president specifically addressed comments Hagel made in 1998, when he called an ambassador pick "openly aggressively gay," suggesting he was unfit to serve.

"He apologized for it," Obama said, referencing a statement Hagel issued earlier this month. "And I think it's a testimony to what has been a positive change over the last decade in terms of people's attitudes about gays and lesbians serving our country."

"That's something that I'm very proud to have led," the president added. "And I think that anybody who serves in my administration understands my attitude and position on those issues."

Chuck Hagel, Knifed In The Back By The Lobby

By Richard Silverstein

December 30, 2012  -
  As I wrote a few days ago when many were whispering that Chuck Hagel’s chances of becoming secretary of defense had died, what does it matter whether it’s the Israel lobby or the Jewish lobby?  When you get a knife in the back, it doesn’t matter who’s putting the shiv into you.  In Chuck Hagel’s case, he’s getting stabbed in the back by Aipac and its true believers.  It’s an unsightly, unsavory bunch including Likudists like Jennifer Rubin, Brett Stephens, Bill Kristol, Eli Lake, and Jewish apparatchiks like Abe Foxman.  You won’t see Aipac’s fingerprints on the knife because it doesn’t work that way.  If you’re going to be jumped in a dark alley, Aipac will make sure you can’t see the face of your attacker.  They’re the whispering kind.  They plant rumors, tell lies, all without attribution.

It reminds me in an ironic way of the Dreyfuss Affair.  A decorated war hero is accused of  betraying his country (or in Hagel’s case, his Party).  The victim is accused falsely, but the smears stick and he is punished for the effrontery of his independence and fearlessness.  The difference between Dreyfuss and Hagel is, of course, that Dreyfuss was Jewish and his attackers were anti-Semites.  In Hagel’s case, his attackers are Jews.  But they are using unsavory tactics that are little different than those used against Dreyfuss.

The Israel lobby has performed a typically neat trick in their campaign against Hagel.  They know they can’t attack him for being anti-Israel (though they’ve even whispered of this sin in hushed tones).  So they trot out the “A” word, the trump card that silences every debate regarding Israel: anti-Semite.  His opponents know that Hagel isn’t anti-Semitic.  But rather that he refuses to toe the line on Israel.  Not, chas v’chalilah that he’s anti-Israel.  But insufficiently obeisant.  He was the nail in the U.S. Senate that refused to be hammered down by the Lobby.  When you stick out in this way, when you maintain your independence in the face of tremendous pro-Israel pressure, you’re going to get hammered.  Literally (and figuratively).

So this campaign is payback.  The chance for the Lobby to show its muscle.  It must kill Chuck Hagel’s nomination in order to set an example for current and future legislators who may contemplate maintaining the sort of independent profile Hagel did.  They’re gonna get this sucka and get him good.  They’re going to fix his hide.

Anyone with the guts to say this must, like John Barleycorn, die:

Congress “is an institution that does not inherently bring out a great deal of courage.” The American Israel Public Affairs Committee comes knocking with a pro-Israel letter, Hagel continued, and “then you’ll get eighty or ninety senators on it. I don’t think I’ve ever signed one of the letters”—because, he added, they were “stupid.” Hagel also said, “The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here,” but “I’m a United States senator. I’m not an Israeli senator.”

But what’s especially appalling is that liberal pro-Israel senators like Carl Levin and Chuck Schumer (both of whom know their bread is buttered by Aipac) have either refused to offer Hagel support or offered only tepid encouragement.  This is how the Lobby works.  It gives pause to even those who should naturally back you.  Theirs are not exactly Profiles in Courage.  More like sticking your finger in the wind to see which way the wind’s blowing.  If it’s that hamsin wind blowing from the hills of Judea, you know to duck and cover.

J Street has supported Hagel, but that’s no surprise for the group I call Jews for Obama.  If Obama said the sun rose in the west, Jeremy Ben Ami would have an op-ed in Haaretz the next day dutifully affirming the fact.

I’m delighted to say that Tom Friedman, whose columns I’ve praised perhaps once or twice in the entire history of this blog, wrote a sterling piece defending Hagel.

It’s especially ironic to watch opportunists like Bill Kristol become gay rights advocates when it suits them.  Because Hagel made an anti-gay statement 15 years ago (1998), the neocon, who has no previous history of being a friend of gays, all of sudden becomes holier than Stonewall.  There is no doubt that Hagel’s comment in which he used the phrase “aggressively gay,” was objectionable.  But that was a different era.  Does anyone seriously want to tell me that we can’t find 20 then-U.S. senators who made similar comments about gays in that era?

Someone has to tell me how a homophobic comment made in 1998 disqualifies someone from being secretary of defense today.  Are they arguing that he’ll backtrack on gays in the military?  No, of course not.  Hagel, a military man himself, knows that he’s in a chain of command in which the president is the commander-in-chief.  Being a cabinet member is not the same as being a senator.  Hagel knows this.

There is much that is dysfunctional about American government.  Just watch the moronic debate over the “fiscal cliff,” or abortion, or gay marriage.  But foremost in toxicity in Congress is the stranglehold the Lobby holds over U.S. policy toward Israel and the frontline states (Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan).  I’m not saying this out of animosity toward Israel and its interests.  Precisely the opposite.  The Lobby doesn’t act in Israel’s interest.  It acts in the interest of the Lobby.  Hell, half the time positions advocated by the Lobby are far to the right of Israel’s official policy.  The Lobby wants power for power’s sake.  Power is its primary means of self-preservation.

That power does not help Israel.  It hurts.  Yes, it supports the short-term interests of an extreme right-wing Israeli government–today.  It supports settlements.  It opposes Palestinian statehood.  It supports regime change against Iran.  But what about Israel’s long-term interests?  What about promoting real solutions?  Does anyone seriously argue that protecting the Occupation, as the Lobby does, offers a real long-term solution?

That’s why the Lobby is toxic.  Not just within a Congressional context, but for Israel as well.

Chuck Hagel is a realist.  He’s not a wild-eyed radical or anyone’s fool.  He’s not going to carry water for Israel or the Lobby or the Palestinians for that matter.  He’s going to represent America’s interests as he sees them.  At times that will mean supporting Israel and at times it will mean criticizing Israel.  That’s just what American Jews and Israelis themselves do.  So why should we deny Chuck Hagel a cabinet job for debating the same points that are heard every time Diaspora Jews or Israelis talk about Israel?

There’s little doubt that Bibi Netanyahu too doesn’t want Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense.  The latter is built more in the mold of James Baker.  If you’ll recall Baker had the chutzpah to use the “F” in calling out Israel.  He was the one who mockingly called out the White House phone number at a press conference and dared Yitzhak Shamir to call when he was ready to be serious about peace.  Bibi needs a James Baker at DoD like it needs a hole in the head.  Instead he prefers a malleable functionary to fulfill that role.  Someone like John Kerry or Leon Panetta or Barack Obama (oops, even an Obama made out of silly putty is too feisty for Bibi and the Lobby).

A terrific, wonderfully literate defense of Hagel by Muhammad Idrees Ahmad.  He dug up this amazing chestnut from Natasha Mozgovaya, who herself is a journalistic creature of the Lobby:

Every appointee to the American government must endure a thorough background check by the American Jewish community.

Richard Silverstein is an author, journalist and blogger, with articles appearing in Haaretz, the Jewish Forward, Los Angeles Times, the Guardian’s Comment Is Free, Al Jazeera English, and Alternet. His work has also been in the Seattle Times, American Conservative Magazine, Beliefnet and Tikkun Magazine, where he is on the advisory board. Check out Silverstein's blog at Tikun Olam, one of the earliest liberal Jewish blogs, which he has maintained since February, 2003.

This article appeared at Tikun Olam

Who Paid for the Log Cabin Republicans' Anti-Hagel NYT ad?

The gay GOP group confirms the ad was funded by outside donors, but refuses to identify them or their cause

By Glenn Greenwald

December 30, 2012 "
The Guardian' -- Last Thursday, the gay GOP group Log Cabin Republicans (LCR) placed a full-page ad in the New York Times that attacked Chuck Hagel as anti-Israel and anti-gay and urged President Obama not to appoint him as Defense Secretary. This was quite a strange event for multiple reasons.

First, full-page ads in the NYT are notoriously expensive, particularly for a small, poorly-funded group like LCR; published rates indicate that such an ad can cost well in excess of $100,000, though some discounts are possible with flexible dates (five years ago, the published rate for a black-and-white full-page political ad was $142,000). Second, LCR - which touts itself as "the only Republican organization dedicated to representing the interests of LGBT Americans and their allies"- has virtually no demonstrated prior interest in Israel; the only mention of that country on its entire website is as part of a laundry list of nations which allow gay and lesbians to serve in the armed forces, while its only substantive position on Iran policy is a tepid 2010 statement advocating a single 2010 bill for increased sanctions, something which Obama supported and signed (the group did lend its name to a coalition against Iranian nuclear proliferation). Third, since when does LCR - which endorsed McCain/Palin in 2008 and Mitt Romney with his abundant anti-gay advocacy in 2012 - oppose GOP officials on the ground that they have some anti-gay aspects to their record?

All of those facts made me deeply curious about what prompted LCR to place this ad and, especially, who funded it. That curiosity was heightened by another fact: a favorite tactic of neocons - who have led the smear campaign against Hagel - is to cynically exploit liberal causes to generate progressive support for their militaristic agenda. They suddenly develop an interest in the plight of gay people when seeking to demonize Iran, or pretend to be devoted to women's rights when attempting to sustain endless war in Afghanistan, or become so deeply moved by the oppression of Muslim factions - such as Iraqi Shia - when it comes time to justify their latest desired invasion.

As it so often does, this tactic has worked magically here, as numerous progressives who do actually care about gay issues - from Rachel Maddow to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force - dutifully popped up to attack the neocons' number one public enemy. Andrew Sullivan is right that this is a classic technique of the neocon smear campaign - recruit progressives to their cause with exploitation of unrelated issues - and he's also right that Hagel's record on gay issues is hardly uncommon or unusually disturbing for DC officials (particularly given his apology and disavowal). Indeed, very few of these progressives had difficulty supporting Obama in 2008 despite his opposition to same-sex marriage on this warped ground: "I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian, it's also a sacred union. God is in the mix." But the LCR ad is designed to rile up progressives against Hagel by making it appear that Good Liberals oppose the former Senator for reasons having nothing to do with his heresies on Israel (just as so many Good Liberals were convinced to support the attack on Iraq, and will do the same with an attack on Iran, on the ground that the war advanced their Liberal Values).

As a result, I posed several questions to LCR about the funding and motive behind this ad. In response, the group's Executive Director, R. Clark Cooper, confirmed that LCR did not pay for the ad out of its existing funds. Rather, he said, the ad campaign "is being funded by a number of donors". But he not only refused to identify any of those donors, but also has thus far refused to say whether those "donors" are from the self-proclaimed "pro-Israel" community and/or are first-time donors to LCR: in other words, whether these donors are simply exploiting gay issues and the LCR to advance an entirely unrelated agenda as a means of attacking Hagel.

As for why LCR would suddenly object to the anti-gay record of Hagel despite a history of supporting more virulently anti-gay Republicans, Cooper claimed that "LCR is particularly concerned about Chuck Hagel as a potential Defense Secretary because of the role he would play in continuing to oversee the implementation of open service of the military." But he did not respond to my follow-up inquiry about why, then, LCR endorsed Mitt Romney - who has long supported Don't Ask, Don't Tell and other anti-gay measures - as President. Why would this group be so moved by concerns about a possible Defense Secretary's anti-gay record that they take out a full-page ad against him in the New York Times, but just three months ago endorsed someone who is at least as anti-gay for the position of Commander-in-Chief, which obviously has far more influence on such policies than a Defense Secretary?

What makes this all the more inexplicable is that, a couple of weeks before the LCR ad was placed, the very same R. Clark Cooper spoke out in praise of Hagel to the Gay City News:

"I recall working with Senator Chuck Hagel and his staff during the Bush administration and he was certainly not shy about expressing his criticisms. But despite his criticisms, Hagel voted with us most of the time and there was no question he was committed to advancing America's interests abroad. As for his nomination to be secretary of defense, it is well worth noting that Senator Hagel is a combat veteran who has hands-on experience in the field. The battlefield is not just theory for him."

At some point thereafter, LCR decided not only that Hagel must be publicly smeared as anti-gay and anti-Israel, but that the group just had to take an extraordinary and incredibly expensive step - a full-page ad in the New York Times - to do so. And then magically, the substantial funding for that anti-Hagel ad materialized.

While I agree with those who insist that a Hagel nomination would not meaningfully change administration policy, the goal of the anti-Hagel smear campaign is to ensure that there can be no debate and no diversity of views on Israel when it comes to top government officials. That was the same objective that drove the successful effort to torpedo the 2009 appointment by Adm. Dennis Blair of life-long foreign service diplomat (and periodic Israel critic) Chas Freeman to a position within the National Security Council. Gay advocates are the exploited tools in this effort. We should at least have some transparency about that fact.

© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited

See also -

Hagel to be Nominated Monday as Secretary of Defense! : The White House contacted key Jewish leaders this evening, informing them that former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel will be nominated this week, likely as early as Monday, to be America’s next Secretary of Defense, sources say.

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