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The Meaning of Pat Buchanan's Surpising Endorsement of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense

When Left and Right come together, it usually is quite revealing. The issue that binds them this time is the campaign to have the president continue the fight for Chuck Hagel to get the nomination as secretary of Defense.

First, a group of self-proclaimed foreign policy “realists,” including the usual suspects, have endorsed Hagel’s nomination. The group is best summarized by one of Hagel's major supporters among the pundit class -- Robert Wright of The Atlantic:

Hagel has now drawn support from liberals all across the foreign policy spectrum, from well left to center if not right of center: John Judis of The New Republic, Josh Marshall of TPM, Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, Joe Klein of Time, Tom Friedman of the New York Times, Jim Fallows of The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic (who, like Friedman, makes a pro-Israel argument for Hagel), etc. Hagel has also been embraced by many on the non-neocon right, as evinced not only by the politicos mentioned above, but by pundits ranging from paleocons to a bunch of libertarians. A few progressives are skeptical of Hagel because of his past conservative positions on issues with little bearing on foreign policy, but by and large this fight is between some neocons (plus a few reliable supporters) and everybody else.

Most importantly, the Washington Post ran a letter endorsing Hagel by the deans of the “realist” school: James L. Jones, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, and Frank Carlucci. Hagel, they wrote:

 ... is a rare example of a public servant willing to rise above partisan politics to advance the interests of the United States and its friends and allies.

You get the thrust: Hagel has widespread popular support among the foreign policy and media establishment. Therefore, the only ones contesting him are from the “Israel lobby,” led by the hated neocons, who are fighting a last-ditch battle to show their power against those who truly represent America's national interest.

On the Left, the Daily Beast's Andrew Sullivan -- in his usual hysterical tone -- leads the charge against the neocon menace:

Because [William Kristol] operates on the premise that policy toward Greater Israel is not something that a president should have any serious control over. Policy in that respect is set in Congress aided and abetted by AIPAC and batshit crazy Christianist Zionists. Like the NRA, this lethal lobby will destroy any politician it can who stands in its way. It will also try to destroy the careers and reputations of any who criticize it. Nothing exemplifies this more clearly than the chilling, and repulsive headline in Kristol's own magazine when launching this character assassination

One has come to expect this kind of talk; it avoids substance, and its authors engage in the very smear they accuse their opponents of carrying out.

The latest endorsement of Hagel should give the aforementioned some pause. It comes from none other than the paleo-conservative, isolationist, and anti-Israel zealot whose anti-Semitism is second to none, Pat Buchanan. In his column, Buchanan echoes all of the now familiar “realist” themes, but unlike the others -- who try to distance Hagel from being crudely anti-Israel (indeed, they back him by making the argument his appointment would be better for Israel) -- Buchanan wants Hagel precisely because he sees him as one who would stand firm against the Jewish nation.

Buchanan, like Walt and Mearsheimer, believes in the undue power of the insidious Israeli lobby, of which he says: “Its existence is the subject of books and countless articles,” and it always gets bills it supports passed -- they are “whistled through” Congress whenever one comes up.

Hagel is opposed, Buchanan writes, because he does not “treat these [AIPAC] sacred texts with sufficient reverence,” and because Hagel “puts U.S. national interests first,” especially when “those interests clash with the policies of the Israeli government.”

One must understand, when reading these words, that Buchanan always believes that whatever Israel supports should be opposed by the United States.