Abe Foxman, the head of the Anti-Defamation League, emails me from overseas on the potential for Chuck Hagel to be picked as secretary of Defense:
“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.”
Foxman’s criticism follows in the wake of a column by Bret Stephens who documents Hagel’s insinuations about dual loyalty. Today Stephens writes, “Prejudice—like cooking, wine-tasting and other consummations—has an olfactory element. When Chuck Hagel, the former GOP senator from Nebraska who is now a front-runner to be the next secretary of Defense, carries on about how “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here,” the odor is especially ripe.”
Hagel’s use of the phrase “the Jewish lobby” was not isolated, but it was unique among elected officials outside the Pat Buchanan fringe and would be unprecedented for a cabinet official. Stephens notes:
Mr. Hagel’s Jewish lobby remark was well in keeping with the broader pattern of his thinking. “I’m a United States Senator, not an Israeli Senator,” Mr. Hagel told retired U.S. diplomat Aaron David Miller in 2006. “I’m a United States Senator. I support Israel. But my first interest is I take an oath of office to the Constitution of the United States. Not to a president. Not a party. Not to Israel. If I go run for Senate in Israel, I’ll do that.”
Read these staccato utterances again to better appreciate their insipid and insinuating qualities, all combining to cast the usual slur on Jewish-Americans: Dual loyalty. Nobody questions Mr. Hagel’s loyalty. He is only making those assertions to question the loyalty of others.
I and others have documented Hagel’s objection to sanctions against Iran and his particularly anti-Israel voting record. But these remarks are something different — the expression of rank prejudice against American Jews. Hagel has never apologized for, retracted or even sought to explain his remarks.
No official would be considered for high office if he questioned the loyalty of Asian Americans or Arab Americans, so it is difficult to understand why Hagel has gotten so much consideration. But then again, perhaps this is simply evidence of defining deviancy, or anti-Semitism, downward. In any event, the calls for Obama to diversify his cabinet with a woman at the Pentagon seem a graceful cover for dumping Hagel. Really, where are the women?