The Chuck Hagel nomination has brought to light a number of interesting contrasts, with senators and outside groups acting in ways that will surprise some in the media and public at large. For those cognizant of the shift in sentiment about Israel, however, this is merely confirmation of a trend over the last few decades in which support for Israel is declining steadily among Democrats while rising among Republicans.
1. The social conservative group Concerned Women for America is more troubled about Israel and the potential for Iran getting a nuclear bomb (“Sen. Hagel has also opposed sanctions against Iran and went further from the road of traditional national security by stating that direct negotiations would be the best course of action to resolve the conflict with the terrorist group Hamas.”) than is the National Jewish Democratic Council.
2. If Hagel gets confirmed, in President Obama’s second term the State Department could actually be more pro-Israel than the Defense Department. (This virtually never happens given the historic bent of State.)
3. Hagel’s most vocal supporters outside the Senate want him to get the job because he is hostile toward Israel and opposed to sanctions against Iran. (Presumably they would have been just as pleased with former Texas congressman Ron Paul.) Democratic senators who defend him will have to pretend the opposite is the case.
4. In this pick to promote “bipartisanship,” not a single GOP senator so far has said he or she would support Hagel.
5. The most disingenuous defense of Hagel comes from David Brooks, who says Hagel is needed “to supervise the beginning of this generation-long process of defense cutbacks.” What about the dozens of qualified candidates capable of doing just that who don’t express hostility toward American Jews, disapprove of Iran sanctions and want to negotiate directly with Hamas?
6. Christians United for Israel came out against the Hagel nomination. The Orthodox Union (a Jewish organization with close ties to New Jersey and New York elected officials) is silent. Hence, the need to change the name to the “Christian Zionist Lobby.”
7. It is going to be hard for Hagel to claim his views are distorted when there is audio tape of some of his most noxious remarks.
8. Hagel’s views on Israel and Iran, as well as his determination to slash Pentagon spending, apparently in Obama’s eyes make up for all other positions that are antithetical to the left (gay rights, guns, abortion, global warming). It’s almost like being anti-Israel and going weak on Iran are the qualities that override every other consideration.
9. If Obama had taken Hagel’s advice in his first term he would not have imposed sanctions on Iran or gotten rid of ” don’t ask, don’t tell,” but he would have begun direct negotiations with Hamas. Yet Obama insists he values Hagel’s advice.
10. Among the New York and New Jersey senators, only Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has spoken up, and her statement expressed extreme skepticism. “Senator Hagel is a war hero who served our country honorably and was prescient in his questioning of the Iraq war. But we must look at his entire public service record in its totality in the upcoming confirmation hearings. Considering some of the statements Senator Hagel has made, and votes he has cast, particularly regarding Iran policy, tough questions must and will be asked to clarify his views before these hearings are complete. I look forward to a fair and thorough process.” This is one of the few times when the senior New York senator is hiding from the microphones.