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The Last-Ditch Attack Against Hagel's Opponents: 'McCarthyites'

The Nation is a leftist magazine of opinion. But its arguments also turn up in the New York Times -- whose editors claim their paper and its point of view as mainstream, although it is largely indistinguishable in its analysis from The Nation, and in its regular dedication of its op-ed pages to one anti-Israel polemic after another. In today’s NYT, Jim Rutenberg pens a major piece titled “Hawks on Iraq Prepare for War Again, Against Hagel.”

Like Alterman, Rutenberg uses his pen to scald those dreaded neocons, who hold a “worldview” that “remains a powerful undercurrent in the Republican Party and in the national debate about the United States’ relationship with Israel and the Middle East.” By singling out neo-conservatives, it is the purpose of the article to undermine the arguments against Hagel by making it appear they are those only of one extreme and unpopular political current. That is why writers like Alterman and Rutenberg never let their readers know that a Democrat as mainstream as Chuck Schumer has carefully refrained from giving Hagel’s nomination support, and that other major Democrats who are not neocons question the nomination as well.

Notice also his extreme characterization of the neocons as a group that wants “pre-emptive strikes against potential threats,” when in fact all that has been argued is that the military option remain very strongly on the table. He also adds the canard that they want to impose democracy everywhere “by military means if necessary.”

Then, note the attribution of the campaign to William Kristol as its linchpin, as if others who are not in Kristol’s camp have not made many of the same arguments. Kristol is correct when he replies that these people suffer from “neoconservative derangement syndrome.”

In his article, Mr. Rutenberg inadvertently confirms Kristol’s assessment, since he projects overwhelming power to the neocons, giving them almost as much as Hagel and his supporters attribute to AIPAC.

Then there is a great conspiracy: Rutenberg writes that Sheldon Adelson sits on the board of the Republican Jewish Coalition, which was “among the first to criticize the Hagel nomination.” The sad truth is that most people are not even aware that the RJC exists, and its influence, as far as I can see, is nowhere near as important as the mainstream bi-partisan AIPAC, which is always misrepresented by those on the Left, like Mr. Alterman, as a monster of the far Right.

If you think Rutenberg is an objective reporter or writer, look at his technique, exemplified in what follows. He brings up Richard Perle, branded for years by his enemies as “the prince of darkness,” who, he lets readers know, “never served in the military.” He contrasts that with his stress on the fact that Senator Hagel fought valiantly in Vietnam, had “two Purple Hearts from his service” there, and has “shrapnel embedded in his chest.” That, he says, gives Hagel “a unique perspective on war.”

Perhaps. But we know that there are many who served, who have been seriously wounded, and who have reached conclusions quite different than those reached by Mr. Hagel.

Does his service to our country mean that his position on foreign policy questions is correct, and that those who differ are wrong? John McCain takes a different position. He too suffered greatly as a result of his service in Vietnam. Would Mr. Rutenberg or Mr. Alterman use this to make the argument that John McCain is correct in his desire to stand tough against Iran?