Then-Senators Barack Obama and Chuck Hagel in Israel in 2008 (Reuters)
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Making the Case for Chuck Hagel

How some are making the case for nomination of Hagel for defense secretary

Adam Chandler
January 07, 2013
Then-Senators Barack Obama and Chuck Hagel in Israel in 2008 (Reuters)

With the imminent nomination of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, the trial balloon that launched a thousand condemnations has now all but become the real thing. Hagel’s nomination–an idée fixe of some members of the pro-Israel camp, some conservative organizations, some gay-rights activists, and some Iran hawks for more than a month now–has brought a broad and vocal coalition together in opposition. Opponents of Hagel have promised that the fight to confirm him will be tough.

But what about the case for Hagel? Over the weekend, as the likelihood of the nomination grew, some of Hagel’s supporters and other pundits, who previously had not made themselves known (perhaps given the speculative nature of the nomination itself), started speaking up a bit.

First up: The National Jewish Democratic Council, which quasi-endorsed Hagel after having been pretty quiet throughout the past month:

President Barack Obama’s unprecedented pro-Israel credentials are unquestionable, and setting policy starts and stops with the President. While we have expressed concerns in the past, we trust that when confirmed, former Senator Chuck Hagel will follow the President’s lead of providing unrivaled support for Israel — on strategic cooperation, missile defense programs, and leading the world against Iran’s nuclear program.”

On the issue of Hagel and Israel, Haviv Rettig Gur dropped this bombshell: apparently some Israelis–including at least one top security official–aren’t fretting about the possibility of Hagel holding court at the Pentagon.

When it comes to the criticism leveled at the presumptive nominee, including even a 2006 comment about the power of the “Jewish lobby,” which the ADL has said bordered on anti-Semitism, “nobody in Israel cares about that,” the source said.

“The only question we have is about his policy on the Iranian question,” the senior official emphasized.

“Some of those views will be cleared up in the [Senate confirmation] hearings,” the source noted, “and we always have to keep in mind that the president makes the decision [about a possible Iran strike],” not the secretary of defense.

The official added that Hagel’s reported previous opposition to action on Iran may actually constitute an asset because “certain actions will have greater legitimacy if they are taken by certain people who have opposed them in the past.”

Meanwhile, Ron Kampeas gathered these tweets from former senior Obama aide David Axelrod, who defended Hagel:

Attacks on Hagel r bogus. He’s tough, courageous, sensible & able to withstand political pressure to do what’s right for USA. What we need!

McConnell was right a few years aho when he called Hagel “a great statesmen.”

And supporters of Israel, of which I am one, also make a huge mistake by depicting Hagel as hostile. No such evidence in his record.

Over at Slate, Fred Kaplan outlined the reasons some oppose Hagel and sought to debunk them before ultimately declaring that the opposition to Hagel had little to do with the man himself:

Again, the Republicans’ real problem on Iran is with Obama—or, rather, with what they think Obama stands for. In the wake of his incontestable re-election, Hagel serves as a stand-in.

Noted conservative writer George Will added this bit of support on Hagel during a roundtable talk on the Sunday morning show ‘This Week’:

I disagree with him [Hagel] on a lot of stuff, but I think he should be confirmed and will be because vast deference is owed to presidents in cabinet members, for two reasons. Their job is to carry out the president’s wishes and, B, they leave when the president leaves, which is why more deference is owed to that than, say, on Supreme Court nominees.

We’ll no doubt be hearing more in the coming weeks. In the meantime, are you convinced one way or the other?

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.

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