The Hagel Nomination
Israel, and the Neo-cons
I have included a link to my discussion on Jeff Blankfort’s radio program—“Takes on the World” (KZYX in Mendocino, Calif.)—which aired on Wednesday, February 13, and focused on the nomination of Chuck Hagel.
Blankfort is an excellent host and offered a number of insightful comments on Hagel’s nomination as Secretary of Defense and the strategy of the Israel lobby on the issue. At the time (Feb. 13), expert (mainstream) opinion had thought that the debate on the floor of the full Senate (Hagel had made it through the Senate Armed Services Committee) would be quickly ended by the required 60 votes (the actual confirmation vote only requires a majority). However, this proved not to be the case on Thursday (Feb. 14), though the cloture vote was very tight—58-40 in favor. At first it was 59-39, with one “present” vote. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Democrat) would switch his vote to “no,” which apparently was necessary in order to remain eligible to request another vote. That next vote can take place after the Senate returns from a 10-day recess.
The neoconservatives have been in the forefront in attacking Hagel while AIPAC has stayed in the background. While this means that the effort has not been as strong as it could be, it has also been of help to the overall Israel lobby, since it is virtually out of the picture as far as the mainstream media is concerned. The main opposition to Hagel is now described as simply Republican. And the reason the Republicans are doing this is attributed to many different things: their view of Hagel as a turncoat because of his opposition to the President Bush; their desire to undermine Obama’s policies because of their hatred for him; their opposition to Hagel’s allegedly soft positions on the Middle East, and especially Iran; their desire to cause more damage on the Benghazi issue. Commentator Chris Matthews boils it all down to simple right-wing Republican nastiness. Although the Israel issue was noted when the attack on Hagel began more than a month ago, Israel now is barely mentioned. Should the neocons ultimately stop Hagel, it would be an amazing success. A perceived enemy of Israeli interests would be defeated without any negative political ramifications for Israel or the Israel lobby—in fact, with hardly anyone even knowing that the Israel lobby was involved.
That the neocons have had such a great impact in making things difficult for Hagel, and still could bring about his defeat, illustrates their great power. Experts are predicting that Hagel will be confirmed when Congress returns, as a number of Republican Senators have said that after a short debate they will allow a vote to take place, with no attempt to filibuster to prevent Hagel’s confirmation. This is probably most likely, but it is possible that the neocon smearbund, which is unrelenting in its effort to find more dirt on Hagel by putting his finances and speeches under a microscope, could still bring him down. Hagel has been willing to withstand a high degree of character assassination so far, but how much more is he willing to take? And when will Obama and his political advisors come to believe that Hagel has become too wounded to be an asset to the administration? It should be recalled that the very threat of character assassination by the Israel lobby caused Bobby Ray Inman to withdraw as Bill Clinton’s nominee as Secretary of Defense in 1994 and for Chas Freeman to withdraw from his appointment as chairman of the National Intelligence Council in 2009.
It should be pointed out that if supposed (former?) antiwar libertarian Rand Paul (son of Ron Paul) had not become so desirous of placating the Israel lobby, Christian Zionists, and his fellow Republican senators, the 60 votes to end the debate would have been attained, and Hagel would have almost certainly obtained a majority vote in the Senate to be confirmed as Secretary of Defense.