Likely defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel facing extreme criticism

The concerns and criticisms over a potential Susan Rice nomination for secretary of state seem mild now compared to the angst and rancor coming from both Democrats and Republicans over Chuck Hagel’s potential nomination for defense secretary.

Hagel, the former Republican senator from Nebraska and combat Vietnam War veteran, is supposedly President Obama’s top pick to replace current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in what is perhaps some lame attempt to show bipartisanship.

“Hagel’s perceived views on Israel and relations with Iran have prompted critical commentary from some political quarters,” the Washington Post reported. “A few prominent Jewish Democratic activists have complained to the White House about Hagel.”

And, according to the newspaper, a GOP Senate aide said, “The White House is underestimating how much fury will be released on Hagel for his Iran views.”

The editors of National Review Online wrote that when Hagel was a senator, “he urged President Bush to engage in ‘unconditional’ talks with the Tehran regime, and consistently voted against sanctions. Worse, he is on the record saying that military intervention in response to a nuclear Iran is ‘not a viable, feasible, responsible option,’ and in 2010 called it an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ proposition.”

The NRO article explained that in 2006, “Hagel refused to sign a letter — endorsed by 88 other senators — urging the EU to officially designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, a move that would help cut off funding to the group,” and added, “Hagel has time and again actively refused to back Israel, most strikingly during the second Palestinian intifada of 2000. In a 2008 interview, Hagel defended his unpopular position on these issues by noting that ‘the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here [in Washington]’.”

Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League, sent an email Tuesday to the Washington Post on the potential nomination of Hagel as secretary of defense, saying:

Chuck Hagel would not be the first, second, or third choice for the American Jewish community’s friends of Israel. His record relating to Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship is, at best, disturbing, and at worst, very troubling.  The sentiments he’s expressed about the Jewish lobby border on anti-Semitism in the genre of professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt and former president Jimmy Carter.

There are alarming concerns that Hagel’s views on defense are not only out of the mainstream, but seem to be to the left of even Obama’s. Hagel has been quoted saying he strongly supports cuts to defense, even though Panetta has said that defense cuts would be disastrous.



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