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The Nod of Chucky: Obama Takes Stab at Lawmakers Who Derailed Rice

Despite pushback over Hagel's positions, the president angles for a Senate fight sandwiched in between the fiscal cliff and debt ceiling.

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

January 7, 2013 - 4:06 pm
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And, like Obama’s failed attempt to nominate UN Ambassador Rice for secretary of State, the Hagel opposition didn’t just come from the chamber that will vote on the nomination, either.

“Senator Hagel’s incendiary views of Israel are only the tip of the iceberg. On Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran and defense spending, Hagel’s reported views call into question his judgment about the most important matters facing our national security,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said in a lengthy statement. “Taken together, Hagel’s views represent a call for a broad retreat from the preeminent role America has played, and must continue to play, in the world during a period of profound tumult and instability.”

“Hagel opted for political expediency in opposing the surge in Iraq, and supported a retreat that would have ceded victory to al Qaeda and Iran. The nomination of a man known primarily for opposing sanctions and military action against Iran strongly suggests that all options are not on the table. Hagel’s nomination telegraphs weakness in the Middle East and defeatism in Afghanistan, where our Afghan partners will surely be concerned, and our Taliban and Iranian adversaries will surely be emboldened,” Cantor added.”

Anti-Defamation League director Abe Foxman said he respects Obama’s prerogative to pick his cabinet, but Hagel has to address the myriad concerns surrounding his positions.

“I particularly hope Senator Hagel will clarify and explain his comments about the ‘Jewish Lobby’ that were hurtful to many in the Jewish community,” Foxman said.

“There are serious concerns about Hagel’s commitments to the efficacy of sanctions and a credible military option against Iran, on pressing the European Union to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, on sustaining the U.S. policy on the terrorist Hamas regime in Gaza, on the special nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship and Israel’s quest for peace and security, and on gay rights,” American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris said.

“…AJC has shared our concerns with members of the U.S. Senate, who have the responsibility to ask the probing questions about Hagel’s record and vision.”

Israel opponents tried to pose the question as a choice between the Israel lobby — which, as noted by Foxman, Hagel has been criticized for derisively referring to before — or the former Nebraska senator.

“Senator Hagel will face a difficult and at times a deliberately embarrassing questioning, but WE THE PEOPLE, will not let that happen,” wrote Mohamed Khodr at the Sabbah Report. “These elected traitors will hear from America, all of America, that we as their employers demand they work for our interests and not for Israel or AIPAC.”

The Emergency Committee for Israel launched ChuckHagel.com to detail disturbing Hagel views. J Street turned its site into a pro-Hagel portal.

“Hagel has demonstrated that he is committed to Israel’s security and its future as a democratic state with a Jewish majority living in peace with its neighbors,” J Street said in a statement. “…The fact that Hagel has insisted on independent thinking, weighing each issue on its merits instead of blindly following along with the herd, we regard as an asset.”

Absent from reaction one way or the other was Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), whose foreign policy isolationism views aren’t too remote from Hagel’s.

Tea Party colleague Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), though, had cautiously kinder words for the nominee than some others in his party.

“I have concerns based on positions he has taken and statements he has made on a variety of topics,” Lee said. “Despite my reservations, I will not prejudge his nomination but will give him ample opportunity to explain himself and current thinking on the future state and scope of our military, relationships with our allies, including Israel, and how he believes we should address challenges to our national security like Iran.”

With the controversial nomination sandwiched between two intense negotiating periods with congressional Republicans — over the Bush tax cuts, and now over spending cuts and the debt ceiling — White House press secretary Jay Carney brushed off the need for Obama to address lawmakers’ concerns about his nominee.

“I think that Senator Hagel’s record on those issues and so many others demonstrate that he is in sync with the president’s policies,” Carney said of Israel and Iran — both unmentioned by the president today.

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Bridget Johnson is a career journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
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