Reaction to the latest Chuck Hagel utterances that have come to light have ranged from stony silence to exasperation. In the Senate, a well-known moderate Republican asked for the nomination to be withdrawn.
Democratic senators are refusing to comment. Indeed, I don’t think Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has been heard from on the topic since his Jan. 20 appearance on “Meet the Press,” when he foolishly proclaimed “at those hearings, he’s going to allay the concerns of many people.” Thunk. After all, what would Schumer say — that Hagel lied to him? That he didn’t ask Hagel tough questions? Schumer is now exactly in the place we predicted his White House water-carrying would put him; he’s been made to look like a dupe and now doesn’t have the nerve to back away from the toxic nominee for whom he vouched.
Also silent are the Jewish groups that are too busy asking the administration for Hurricane Sandy relief money or are convincing themselves they will lose influence with the White House if they speak up. (Hint: When the president chose Hagel as defense secretary, you should know you have no influence.) But perhaps some will speak up to declare that this nomination has gone off the rails. I asked acting executive director Aaron Keyak, whose group, the National Jewish Democratic Committee, in the past denounced Hagel and now has given its thumbs up to his confirmation, if he would call for the nomination to be rescinded. Keyak, who took to Twitter recently to denounce Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) for not specifically mentioning Israel in his State of the Union response (and calling out Republicans who would not in turn denounce Rubio), would not comment.
To say that the majority of Jewish organizations have not covered themselves in glory would be an understatement of the degree to which they have sacrificed intellectual honesty at the altar of political access. At least there are conservative groups (Christians United for Israel, ZOA, the Republican Jewish Coalition, Emergency Committee for Israel) that have not put their pro-Israel credentials in a lockbox.
In the Senate, however, the latest revelations have only inflamed Republicans, adding determination to block his nomination. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) told Right Turn via e-mail in reference to the reported “apartheid” comment: “This is just the latest example of Sen. Hagel’s troubling pattern of hostile rhetoric toward one of America’s closest democratic allies — rhetoric far outside the bipartisan mainstream. I would urge the President to reconsider this nomination.” It is noteworthy that Kirk is no right-winger but rather a leading moderate on issues such as bipartisan gun legislation and gay rights. In many ways, he is the bellwether of the center — and a leading voice on Israel and Iran.
An aide to another prominent Republican senator who was not authorized to speak on the record nevertheless related his boss’s sentiments: “This is exactly why every Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to delay bringing Hagel’s nomination to the floor. We knew there was more to the story and that eventually we’d find the thing Sen. Hagel is desperate to hide. Unfortunately, it appears that even the latest ‘apartheid’ comment might only scratch the surface.”
That is certainly a dilemma for both the administration and its increasingly desperate media spinners. What else is out there? Are there more tapes and transcripts? Each time the Republican “comity” crowd seems to signal resignation to the Hagel nomination another revelation comes along and the caucus becomes further infuriated. At this rate, I’m not at all certain the GOP senators will let go of the 60-vote standard.
They might, however, offer to recall Hagel and/or demand explanation of the circumstances of these recently discovered speeches that Hagel did not reveal to the committee and for which he would not disclose who, if anyone, paid him for his anti-Israel utterances.
UPDATE: Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R) responds to Hagel’s latest: “No matter how strongly he denies disavows, and dances around his past comments regarding Israel, this latest revelation reveals what has been clear from the outset: Chuck Hagel sits far outside the mainstream when it comes to our closest ally in the Middle East.”