February 12, 2013

Democrats complain that Republican senators are asking too many questions and asking for too much data from Chuck Hagel. It’s an odd objection, actually, for a defense secretary nominee who has bizarrely and repeatedly changed his views on a host of positions, who couldn’t get through a hearing beyond prepared remarks without embarrassing himself and who has a history of taking positions well outside the mainstream on nuclear capability, Iran, terrorism and Israel. You would think that with a nominee this peculiar, the necessity of carefully reviewing his financial connections, his speeches and his organizational ties would be great. I mean, is there something that explains all this behavior?

Chuck Hagel (Dave Kaup/Reuters)
Chuck Hagel (Dave Kaup/Reuters)

Well, one rationale would be that he followed the dictates of backers whose interests clashed with U.S. policy. A new report contends, “Multiple foreign corporations that have bypassed or attempted to bypass United States and European Union sanctions against Iran are funding the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank chaired by defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel. One council sponsor, Italian oil company Eni, has vehemently defended its trade with Iran, saying it was ‘proud’ of its cooperation with the regime.” In fact, a significant percentage of those funding Hagel’s most prestigious perch are in bed with Iranian oil interests:

Over 10 percent of the Atlantic Council’s corporate sponsors are either Turkish energy companies or companies with a large stake in Turkey’s energy sector, which is closely linked with Iran. Turkey’s energy industry has played a critical role in propping up Iran’s energy sector, with 90 percent of Iran’s natural gas exports going to Turkey. Iran has recently evaded international sanctions by exchanging its Turkish oil revenues for gold, which can be transferred back to Iran. International restrictions prevent Iran from transporting Turkish lira outside of the country.

Might this explain why Hagel was so down on sanctions for so long?

There is also the nettlesome problem of Hagel’s speeches. Whether it is the J Street conference or remarks from 2008 recently unearthed or an interview with Aaron David Miller, Hagel seems to invariably say alarming things. However, he’s been hesitant to release a full compendium of speeches. Hagel critic Bill Kristol now finds that there is a video not yet provided to the Senate Armed Services Committee from a speech Hagel gave to the controversial Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) on June 13, 2008.

Democrats want to jam this nominee through, rightfully concerned that every day the stench surrounding this nomination grows worse. Right Turn has learned from two Senate sources that several Republican senators’ staff members are working on a letter to request the ADC speech and to obtain information about several other speeches Hagel has not previously disclosed. The committee will vote on Hagel’s  nomination shortly, but Republicans are finding new ground every day to slow down this train (wreck) and figure out relevant information for a nominee who looks worse and worse the more we know about him.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.