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Monday, February 18, 2013

Hagel twisting in the wind?

Some of you might have thought that Lindsey Graham (R-SC) saying that he was satisfied with Chuck Hagel's 'explanation' of his statement that Jews control the State Department was the end of the battle over Hagel's confirmation. And it certainly looked that way when John McCain (R-Az) weighed in saying that he expects Hagel to be confirmed (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).

But Jonathan Tobin reports that the report on Friday that Hagel had told an audience at Rutgers University in 2007 that Israel controls the State Department has galvanized the American Jewish organizations whose silence has acted as cover for pro-Israel Democrats to support Hagel. Two of them, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee have now issued statements strongly questioning Hagel's fitness to be Secretary of Defense, and the result may be a whole new ballgame - including the withdrawal of Hagel's nomination - by the time the Senate returns to session next Monday.
On Thursday, Contentions called on some of the major Jewish organizations that have been conspicuous by their absence from the debate about Hagel to finally break their silence on the issue and to demand an explanation about the 2007 speech given at Rutgers University during which Hagel is alleged to have made the crack about the Israelis and the State Department. Last night, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that both the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee have made such statements. The ADL told JTA Hagel needed to explain the remark but the American Jewish Committee went farther in saying that “further Senate deliberation is called for before any final vote is taken.”
These comments are part of the growing furor over Hagel that is not going to be defused by the nominee’s assurance to Senator Lindsay Graham that he “doesn’t recall” making the controversial statements about Israel and the State Department. The allegations about the Rutgers speech are credible not just because of the contemporaneous account of the event but also because of Hagel’s history of saying similar things about the “Jewish lobby” and disavowals of past stands favoring outreach to Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah. As Hagel “twists in the wind” — a Watergate allusion made today by Woodward —pressure is growing on pro-Israel Democrats to abandon him.

With each passing day during the Congressional recess over the next week, the Hagel deathwatch will become a bigger and bigger story. Though Democrats closed ranks behind the president’s choice in a partisan votes on Hagel last week the failure to block a delay of the decision on him via a filibuster on Thursday will give some of them the time to change their minds. Some of the pro-Israel senators like Chuck Schumer who have been using the silence of mainstream Jewish groups about his nomination as cover for their decision to go along with what they knew was a questionable choice are now on the spot. As John wrote in the New York Post on Friday, it’s time for Schumer to live up to his boast that he was the “guardian” of Israel in the Senate. In light of the latest revelations about the nominee’s record, that pose is meaningless if he doesn’t jump off the Hagel bandwagon.
It is true that many of the Republicans who voted to oppose cloture of Hagel on Thursday were doing so in order to try to force the White House to give up more information about what the president knew about the Benghazi terror attack. But the extra time gives members on both sides of the aisle to reconsider the Hagel fiasco.
If this nomination is defeated, the Jewish community owes the Washington Free Beacon a debt of gratitude. WFB has gone out and fought this nomination when everyone else gave up hope.

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