Does Anyone Actually Want Hagel for Secretary of Defense?

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.


So far we have a long list of people who don’t want Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defense. A list that includes top Democrats and Republicans. It’s more of a chore to find those who actually wants Hagel for the post.

There have endorsements from Pat Buchanan and Tom Friedman, neither of whom are in the Senate, both of whom seem to have fastened onto Hagel because they think he’s Anti-Israel. There’s Joe Klein, of Primary Colors fame, now mostly overlooked, who has long descended into rabid ravings on his magazine blog. And none of those people are actually in Congress.

Obama seems to want Hagel in the job, but won’t say so. And that’s about it.

Barney Frank, now on the way out and with no reason to care what Obama thinks, is saying that he strongly opposes a Hagel nomination for gay rights reasons. Elliot Engel opposes it due to Hagel’s anti-Semitism. (Hagel has a real gift for making friends)

In the Senate, where it really counts, Senator Tom Coburn opposes Hagel because he doesn’t think he has the experience to lead the military through Obama’s ruthless defense cuts. Senator Rubio opposes Hagel over Cuba. Senator Cormyn will also oppose. Senator Schumer has refused to come out for, which means he’ll have to be bribed. Senator Lieberman has predicted a tough confirmation. Other Senators have said similar things and no one in the Senate appears to be particularly enthusiastic about him.

Like many turncoat Republicans, Hagel is not popular with either Democrats or Republicans. Traitors tend not to make many friends because neither side likes them or trusts them.

The Anti-Israel crowd has fastened on Hagel reflexively because the Pro-Israel crowd opposes him, the way that they fastened on Freeman, who had worked for two enemy governments and praised China’s restraint at Tienanmen Square. It’s become rather obvious that the Anti-Israel crowd would hysterically embrace anyone, no matter what else they did or believed, so long as they were occasionally critical of Israel.

The battle over Freeman, who had worked for China and Saudi Arabia, and endorsed China’s atrocities discredited the “Anyone Who Hates Israel” crowd. Bringing their endorsements to Hagel while shouting about the Jewish Lobby does Hagel no favors at all. But the battle over Hagel isn’t really about Israel. It’s about the broken relationships that Hagel left in his wake.

The lack of support for Hagel in the Senate shows how unqualified he is as a leader and as an influencer, skills that he would need in a top defense post. The coldness toward him in the Senate is not the fault of some Jewish conspiracy, but Hagel’s failures as a human being.

In a Senate where McCain and Kerry can get along swimmingly despite their dramatic differences on Vietnam, where Lieberman can bridge both sides of the aisle, and where there is a good deal of collegiality, no one has much fondness for Hagel. Kerry, for all his faults, is expected to be easily confirmed. Hagel, on the other hand, is despised. Both men have similar politics, but different personalities. Where most Senators have made friends, Hagel seems to have left behind only enemies.

  • Esteban

    Interesting how you overlook Brent Scowcroft, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Frank Carlucci, James Jones and a large portion of the military and intelligence establishment. I suppose the realist school of foreign policy is just another element of the "hysterical anti-Israel crowd" in your book.

    The suggestion that opposition to Hagel in the Senate is due to his inability to form relationships (and not due to AIPAC doing what it does, lobbying) is about as believable as the idea that the Log Cabin Republicans took out that rather expensive anti-Hagel NYT ad out of their own passionately-held LGBTQ principles and budget.

    Then again, the characterisation of Saudi Arabia and China as "enemies" as opposed to a close ally and rival respectively is a good indicator of how fundamentally unserious this piece is.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      I didn't overlook them, they're even less important than Buchanan or Friedman. They're has beens eager to give a quote.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      "Then again, the characterisation of Saudi Arabia and China as "enemies" as opposed to a close ally and rival respectively is a good indicator of how fundamentally unserious this piece is."

      Nothing says close ally like ramming a plane into the Pentagon.

    • irateiconoclast

      Yep–you do in fact mention other Israel-bashers as supporters of Chuck Hellhole!

  • Ben Cohen

    Dan,

    The key question is whether Hagel is the best nominee that (sane) Americans can hope for? Is Hagel such an out and out bigot that he will discriminate against Jews and/or Gays? I'm not convinced. At the same time he might provide resistance to efforts to use affirmative action to gut standards, put more women in combat, or slash our nuclear arsenal. I have a sneaking suspicion that if Hagel get's shot down Obama will nominate someone much, much, worse.

    -Ben

    • Daniel Greenfield

      Maybe. Maybe not.

      There are better possibilities.

      • Ben Cohen

        That Obama would actually nominate?

    • Snow White

      Women in Combat and leadership roles in the military? My grandson did a tour in Afghanistan and served under a female Capt. who was so dumb that she made copies of a magazine article, passed them out to the squad, and then proceeded to read the article to them. This was just one of her inane training sessions. Even the lowest grunt under her command laughed at her behind her back. then there's that female General in charge of Abu Grab.Everyone knows low level GIs live in fear of breaking a rule or disobeying an order, so there is no way those accused of mistreating prisoners did it unless the Gen. ordered it, approved of their conduct, or didn't know enough about being in command to know what was goin on and have prevented it. That situation would not have happened under a competent General or commander. Affirmative Actioning incompetents into positions they can't handle is costing our GIs their lives.
      ctioning Women into leadership positions they are not capable of handling is costing our GIs their lives.

  • Ghostwriter

    After what I've heard of Hagel,I doubt he's going to be Secretary of Defense. Like the article said,this guy has a REAL gift for making friends [sarcasm intended].

  • objectivefactsmatter

    "Kerry, for all his faults, is expected to be easily confirmed. Hagel, on the other hand, is despised. Both men have similar politics, but different personalities. Where most Senators have made friends, Hagel seems to have left behind only enemies."

    That's too bad. I'd like to see both of them on the streets in the unemployment lines.

  • Mike from Queens

    Selective journalism. You're so eager to sink Hagel, you "conveniently" forgot to mention that most former US Ambasadors to Israel, several former Combatant Commanders, and the national security advisors to Reagan, Bush I, Carter and Obama, as well as Wolfensohn the former World Bank President, Lee Hamilton of the 9/11 commission, and others have written to support Hagel. I guess its because these people are also "less important than Buchanan or Friedman.

  • amalech

    Hagel despised? Tell that to Robert Wright. In a postscript to his Atlantic article "Chuck Hagel and the Neocon Smear Machine" he lists some Hagel supporters you must have overlooked, Mr. Greenfield.
    "Already, Hagel has been defended by a strikingly diverse array of voices, including (in addition to people… mentioned in the piece) Dana Milbank of the Washington Post; John Judis of The New Republic; Andrew Sullivan of the Daily Beast; Scott McConnell and Daniel Larison of The American Conservative; the progressive pro-Israel group J Street; the Center for American Progress blog ThinkProgress; Stephen Walt of Foreign Policy and Harvard; Steve Clemons of The Atlantic and the New America Foundation; Jim Fallows of The Atlantic; Emily Hauser of Open Zion; Marsha B. Cohen and Jim Lobe at Lobeblog; Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times; Clyde Prestowitz, formerly US Trade Representative in a Republican administration, in Foreign Policy; Robert Merry at The National Interest; former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer; and former U.S. Middle East negotiator Aaron David Miller (author of the book in which Hagel's "Jewish Lobby" quote appears)…. Also, former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage." He adds that "A bunch of former US ambassadors–including five former ambassadors to Israel–have now written a letter saying Hagel has 'impeccable' credentials to be secretary of defense: Nicholas Burns, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Ambassador to NATO and Greece; Ryan Crocker, former Ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan; Edward Djerejian, former Ambassador to Israel and Syria; William Harrop, former Ambassador to Israel; Daniel Kurtzer, former Ambassador to Israel and Egypt; Sam Lewis, former Ambassador to Israel; William H. Luers, former Ambassador to Venezuela and Czechoslovakia; Thomas R. Pickering, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Ambassador to Israel and Russia; Frank G. Wisner, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Ambassador to Egypt and India." Wow! For somebody who doesn't know how to make friends, Hagel sure managed to earn a lot of respect from these A-listers. Maybe because he's a man of integrity, an America-Firster who puts his country before his party and before his job. With a dozen like him in Congress there'd be hope for us yet.