Judging by the early indications, the confirmation of former Sen. Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense will put the worst side of Washington on display.
Funds are being collected and ad campaigns are under way. Talk radio, the blogosphere and Twitter are full of lies and half-truths.
As Hagel said in an exclusive interview with Don Walton of the Journal Star, critics have “completely distorted his record.”
The most malicious of the attacks is the charge that Hagel is anti-Semitic, more or less enlisting the ghosts of the Holocaust in opposition to his nomination. The quote cited in support of the allegation is single reference to the “Jewish lobby” as quoted by author Aaron David Miller.
Miller, who was a Mideast peace negotiator, wrote that the charge of anti-Semitism against Hagel was “shameful and scurrilous."
Miller wrote in “Reality Check,” his Foreign Policy magazine column, “I like the way Richard Robinson, a Norfolk, Nebraska steel distributor who's Jewish and considers Hagel a very close friend, put it, ‘I think that anyone who insinuates he's anti-Israel or anti-Semitic is full of crap.’"
Another charge leveled against Hagel is that he is soft on Iran. An ad put together by the Emergency Committee for Israel uses a quote from Hagel made in 2006 and presents it as though it was made in 2012. PolitiFact notes, “But his caution was at least in part borne from the fact that we were already engaged in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Concluded PolitiFact, “We rate this claim Mostly False.”
The truth is that Hagel is on record in a September 2012 op-ed he co-authored for the Washington Post as saying he supported "keeping all options on the table, including the use of military force, thereby increasing pressure on Iran while working toward a political solution."
Perhaps the most common accusation against Hagel is that he is anti-Israel, or at least not sufficiently pro-Israel.
Surely, however, there should be room in the nation’s capital for give-and-take in discussion about the merits of U.S. policy.
Americans have been remarkably generous toward Israel. “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II,” according to Congressional Research Service. “To date, the United States has provided Israel $115 billion in bilateral assistance.”
With an investment this enormous, no American should be shy about discussing whether current policy is best for bringing peace and stability to the Mideast. The United States needs people like Hagel who are willing to question the status quo.
In a better world, the president’s right to choose his own cabinet would not be under attack, and the Senate would consider only whether Hagel is qualified.
There is no doubt that Hagel, a Vietnam combat veteran who served 12 years in the U.S. Senate, meets that standard. The trouble with Washington is that he faces opponents with no standards at all.
Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star