Chuck Hagel's nomination to be secretary of defense is in trouble -- as it should be. The former Republican senator has so much baggage, it is amazing that the administration hasn't dumped him, as they did Susan Rice when her proposed nomination ran into trouble. Unfortunately, having won that battle, the GOP may be in weaker position to defeat another Obama nominee. And Rice, her misstatements about the attack on Benghazi notwithstanding, would have been a less dangerous cabinet member than Hagel.
Hagel has made clearly anti-Semitic statements before public forums time and again. If his target had been, say, blacks or Hispanics, he'd have been forced to withdraw. Just try that on for size.
What if Hagel had been on record as declaring, "The black [or Latino] lobby intimidates a lot of people"? And then had publicly declared the Ku Klux Klan "legitimate"? What if the nominee had also been the one U.S. senator who refused to sign a letter criticizing the former apartheid government of South Africa for its racist treatment of blacks?
In fact, Hagel's actions with respect to Jews have followed exactly this course. In 2006, Hagel said, "The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people," an accusation for which he could not produce a single example during his confirmation hearings. He has defended the murderous Iranian regime as "legitimate" -- a regime whose leaders are committed to annihilating Israel and who deny the Holocaust. And he's opposed sanctions against Iran, even though the regime is a state sponsor of terrorism against the United States. Apparently he thinks Israel is a greater threat to the U.S. than Iran. In a speech at Rutgers University, Hagel accused the U.S. state department of taking its orders from the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
Lest anyone think his animus is towards Israel -- not Jews -- consider that he is the only U.S. senator to have refused to sign a letter to former Russian President Boris Yeltsin asking him to take action against rising anti-Semitism in Russia. Hagel's office issue the lame excuse that the then senator had a "policy not to send letters to foreign heads of state regarding their domestic policy." Really? Well then I guess we can expect President Obama's nominee to remain silent on Syrian and North Korean "domestic policy" as these nations slaughter their citizens by gunning the down in the streets of Homs or Aleppo or killing them slowly in the gulags of Hoeryong?
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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