February 14, 2013

Chuck Hagel’s nomination for now is in suspension. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has conceded that he does not have 60 votes for cloture Friday.  If he does not, he will likely delay Friday’s vote rather than lose on a cloture vote. (A loss on cloture would spur an onslaught of speculation regarding Hagel’s viability.)

President Obama shakes hands with former Sen. Chuck Hagel (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Obama greets Chuck Hagel. (Associated Press/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

And this report has surfaced, with yet another mind-boggling statement that Hagel delivered at Rutgers University in 2007:

Hagel said the U.S. Department of State was an adjunct of the Israeli foreign minister’s office, according to a contemporaneous report of the event.

Republican political consultant and Hagel supporter George Ajjan wrote about the March 2, 2007, speech on his website the following day, writing a description “point by point through some of the more important elements of his speech.”

[Ajjan, on point six:]

 The State Department has become adjunct to the Israeli Foreign Minister’s office …

Wow. A very bold statement by Hagel bound to further raise the ire of the “Jewish Lobby” (yawn), but it does express his strong belief in a comprehensive solution to problems in the Middle East. Hagel mentioned this theme several times —comprehensive, he said, in the sense that all tools should be used to achieve American foreign policy objectives (diplomatic, political, economic, and military), but also comprehensive in the James Baker sense of addressing the Arab-Israeli conflict holistically as both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have proved too lazy and too incompetent to do.

Reached by phone, Ajjan confirmed his 2007 account of the event, saying he was “taking notes as [Hagel] was speaking.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), who has worked with his caucus to require a 60-vote threshold, told Right Turn: “This appears to be further evidence of Sen. Hagel’s extreme views and why he should not be our next secretary of defense.” An official with a Jewish organization told me, “No one really wants this guy, except one person, the president.” The Republican Jewish Coalition put out a statement, which read, in part:

This new information shows why Senate Republicans are right to insist that final action on this nomination not be rushed. We need to fully investigate this allegation, and that means Senator Hagel needs to be heard from directly. Did Chuck Hagel really tell this audience — or any audience — that “the State Department is an adjunct to the Israeli Foreign Minister’s office”? That is what a pro-Hagel blogger, who says he was “taking notes as [Hagel] was speaking,” reported at the time. It should go without saying that claiming Israel controls our State Department is absurd and outrageous.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said in a phone conversation that the notion that our government is an adjunct of Israel is “beyond fantasy.” As for Hagel himself, Cooper was blunt: “Do most Americans think he is the best person? They do not.” Moreover, Hagel’s shaky performance on Iran troubled Cooper greatly. “He either wasn’t briefed, or maybe he was nervous,” he offered. But well beyond any ludicrous statements about Jews and Israel, Cooper said, “most important, the mullahs are going full-blast with nuclearization. Our only shot is a chokehold on the people that count [in the regime] and the fear of a powerful, immediate response.” He worries that Hagel simply won’t be able to advance that position. “He would be entering the endgame,” Cooper said.

Over the past few days, the sentiment within the Republican Senate caucus has shifted from resignation that Hagel would get through to frustration with the White House’s refusal to come forward with Benghazi information and disgust with a nominee this unimpressive.

Although there are not 60 votes for cloture this Friday, the White House will still press to confirm Hagel after the break; Hagel’s opponents will have a week to find the last scraps of information on him. Considering the drip, drip of new revelations, it is entirely possible more will show up.

As we have explained, when and if Hagel gets through he will take over with a diminished reputation and low credibility. I don’t often agree with NBC News but this is dead on: “Hagel has been wounded by the entire process. (Yes, if confirmed, he has the ability — just like Tim Geithner did — to rehabilitate his image, but there are serious questions about his effectiveness, especially in dealing with Congress.)”

UPDATE: Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League reacts to the reported comment by Hagel: “It is somewhat puzzling that this would surface the day that the Senate was scheduled to vote on the nomination.  Nevertheless, if the story is true, it is very disturbing – probably more disturbing than his interview in Aaron David Miller’s book.   If it is not true, then Senator Hagel should say so, and take the speculation about his remark off of the table.”

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