Potential Pentagon nominee brings all sides out swinging
Chuck Hagel is in the awkward position of defending himself for a job nobody at the White House will publicly acknowledge he is a candidate for.
December 21st, 2012
07:04 PM ET

Potential Pentagon nominee brings all sides out swinging

By Mike Mount

Calls of concern and support over President Obama's possible pick to be the next secretary of defense are piling up as former colleagues and special interest organizations take aim at and defend the independent-thinking former senator.

Chuck Hagel is believed to be the president's preferred candidate to run the Pentagon, but an announcement has yet to be made by the White House.

On Friday Hagel, in the awkward position of defending himself for a job nobody at the White House will publicly acknowledge he is a candidate for, tried to explain an anti-gay comment he made in 1998.

Gay rights groups, who were strong supporters of Obama's election campaigns, hit Hagel for questioning whether a nominee for an ambassadorship was suitable because he was "openly, aggressively gay."

Madness in the air in Washington

"My comments 14 years ago in 1998 were insensitive," he said in a statement released by his office at Georgetown University, where he teaches. "They do not reflect my views or the totality of my public record, and I apologize to Ambassador (James) Hormel and any LGBT Americans who may question my commitment to their civil rights. I am fully supportive of 'open service' and committed to LGBT military families."

In a statement sent to CNN by the Human Rights Campaign, the group accepted Hagel's apology and said his comments show "just how far as a country we have come when a conservative former senator from Nebraska can have a change of heart on LGBT issues."
Also Friday, a former Republican colleague, Sen. John McCain of Arizona - whom Hagel did not support when he ran for president in 2008 - said he has concerns about various controversial comments made by Hagel in the past.

"I've known Sen. Hagel for many years. I appreciate also his service in Vietnam. I am concerned about many of the comments that he made and has made, like reference to a, quote, Jewish lobby, which I don't believe exists," McCain told reporters Friday.

"I think that many of those comments and other positions that he has taken will be the subject of the Senate Armed Services Committee and I certainly look forward to asking those questions and getting his responses."

On Thursday, opposition to Hagel began to spike over what are perceived by some as anti-Jewish comments in a 2007 interview, when he said the "Jewish lobby intimidated lawmakers."

The now five-year-old comment set off a firestorm of protests from Jewish leaders and advocacy groups this week as Hagel's name was increasingly mentioned for the Pentagon's top position.

"Chuck Hagel's statements and actions regarding Israel have raised serious concerns for many Americans who care about Israel," the Republican Jewish Coalition said in a written statement. "...The appointment of Chuck Hagel would be a slap in the face for every American who is concerned about the safety of Israel."

But Aaron David Miller, a former State Department Middle East expert, told CNN, "It doesn't mean that Chuck Hagel is an enemy of the state of Israel, or an anti-Semite. I think those charges are really, really off the mark."

But Hagel has also been receiving a good deal of public support this week, including that of former top military officers and ambassadors in two open letters. Among those embracing Hagel's skills for the job are a former national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, former Ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan Ryan Crocker, and four former U.S. ambassadors to Israel.

"Senator Hagel has stood up for what he believes are the best interests of the United States for many years, regardless of party or politics," the former military officers said in their open letter, released Friday. "We all know that the next secretary of defense will have a challenging job to do - in this time of budget constraint and unprecedented challenges around the world, the leadership of the Department of Defense must be strong."

Hagel's defense posture forged by war experience

The former ambassadors, in their letter, said, "Time and again he chose to take the path of standing up for our nation over political expediency. He has always supported the pillars of American foreign policy."

Such organized and public praise being heaped onto Hagel after a week of being haunted by ghosts of his past raised a question of whether the White House - seeking to avoid another public debacle like that which followed suggestions that the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, might be nominated as secretary of state - was behind the statements by the senior officials.

Rice's comments about the death of a U.S. ambassador in Benghazi, Libya, inflamed Republicans and ultimately led to her withdrawing her name from consideration.

Before she withdrew, the White House issued statements strongly supporting Rice. Whether it will do the same for Hagel remains to be seen.

soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. federalreserve

    finally Americans are seeing jew ish people for what they are, another vile supremeist "racist" mob.

    jews have ruled the uSA for far too long,,, it is time to end.

    December 24, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Reply
    • rs1201

      Go back to your hole in the ground you miserable anti semite!

      January 5, 2013 at 2:37 pm | Reply
      • federalreserve

        everyone knows jews have wrecked the uSA, the pretending is over..... foreign parasitism is dying quickly. and poor lil izzyril will have to dry up & blow away, hopefully, leaving PEACE ON EARTH.

        911missinglinks dotcom

        January 5, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
  2. Neurorad

    Obama is picking the Secretary of the State of the United States, not Israel's defense minister !
    Chuck Hagel for the Secretary of Defense!!!

    December 23, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Reply
    • StanCalif

      Obviously, many in Congress don't agree with you! In reality we are virtually the "United States for Israel"! It's time to end this (and clean out the House and Senate)!

      December 24, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Reply
  3. Charles Coffel

    As a vet myself, I find it sickening that Sen. McCain has questions about Sen. Hagel's qualification to be Sec. of Def. because of remarks he made about the Jewish lobby in this country. Everyone knows that Sen. Hagel hit the nail of the head. I also am astonished that we should even care about what Ari Fleisher or Abraham Foxman think. It's about time that a hero like Sen. Hagel is recognized and that the chicken-hawks are kicked to the curb.

    December 22, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Reply
    • rs1201

      and you're an illiterate mo ron

      January 5, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Reply
  4. brown

    AIPAC owned Senators are nothing more than traitors, they should be treated as such.

    December 22, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Reply
    • Ed

      Only in America can a lobby group extract aid and guaranteed loans for a wealthy country like Israel. Israel is the 17th largest market economy in the world and one of few net world lenders, yet we fund them to the tune of $8 million per day. I was always under the impression that Aid was Charity, and Charity is for poor nations. Giving money to any country that is as wealthy as Israel is tantamount to theft of American tax dollars.

      December 24, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Reply
    • federalreserve

      finally people are seeing these infilTRAITING TERRORISTS for what they really are.

      we need lots of rope.

      December 24, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Reply
  5. Pander Bear

    Hagel is highly qualified and will get the nomination and be confirmed. McCain is just looking for more campaign contributions from AIPAC, otherwise known as the non-existent Jewish (more accurately Israeli) lobby. Plus he gets to tweak Obama's nose again which is his sole consolation after having been trounced by him in 2008. McCain is pathetic.

    December 22, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Reply
  6. only in a republican mind

    The real issue is that Hagel openly endorsed Bob Kerry (D) for the vacant senate seat in Nebraska. They wanted and got the tea party senator. McCain has turned into the "just say no to reason" because it gets him more time in front of the camera.
    This week we lost a great american hero and senator who served his country well, got along with others, and didn't seek attention... to bad that when McCain passes, he will be remembered as a war hero who lost his mind and became a mad man in the senate.

    December 22, 2012 at 11:41 am | Reply
  7. A-task-cocita

    Credentials and track record are key. Does he possess the credentials necessary and clarity to put Country before Party?

    December 22, 2012 at 11:32 am | Reply
  8. idoubt

    intimidation with open secrets is the best blackmailing weapon, and the zionists of AIPAC and mossad have mastered it to max.

    December 22, 2012 at 10:47 am | Reply
    • peter

      Israel is losing support every year–It is time for those people to worry about and defend themselves–We don't need them so jesus christ can return–hagel is a man who only cares about america –sounds like an american to me

      December 22, 2012 at 11:47 am | Reply
  9. Betty Nickels

    The very BEST man for the job. I'm a Democrat but have long admired Mr. Hagel for his honesty and concern for the good for the USA. He certainly is not the typical blind or greedy GOP politician. (not all GOP but a few who think their way is the only way) He has stood up to them and he will again for the good of the country. He also would have made an excellent Sec. of State.

    December 22, 2012 at 10:43 am | Reply
  10. Barry

    "The now five year old comment set off a firestorm of protests from Jewish leaders and advocacy groups" So, because he uttered the words "Jewish Lobby", he's in trouble with the... well... Jewish lobby. OK, I think I've got it straight now.

    December 22, 2012 at 10:21 am | Reply
  11. actionjacks7

    If Southern rednecks and Jews are against Hagel, I'am for him. If Obama backs down again he's nothing but a WIMP.

    December 22, 2012 at 9:00 am | Reply
  12. proudmemberofglobalzero

    Can you say, "Nuclear Proliferation?" I can, and that is the most important thing this country and the world for that matter should be concerned about. Weather you are a Bush supporter or an Obama supporter please, really take a look at this possible nomination. I am Jewish with a gay son, niece, and Uncle. I support this nomination to the max.

    December 22, 2012 at 6:27 am | Reply
  13. massoud

    To think that AIPAC does not influence American policy is so laughable my side aches, go to the map light website and look at the money AIPAC has donated to United States Congressional Members. in a six year span the leader of the AIPAC pack is (i) Senator Joe Lieberman CT. who in a six year span received $1,000,039 Dollars from AIPAC, The (I) next to Senator Lieberman should really stand for Israel and not Independent.

    December 22, 2012 at 2:37 am | Reply
    • Thinker23

      It's even more laughable to think that AIPAC is the ONLY organization influencing American policies and that other similar organizations including CAIR (The Council on American–Islamic Relations) simply do not exist.

      December 22, 2012 at 7:42 am | Reply
      • idoubt

        AIPAC is not the only one but the worst one.

        December 22, 2012 at 10:48 am |
      • Thinker23

        idoubt... The "worst one"? What are your criteria?

        December 22, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
      • massoud

        Lets face it their are numerous moneyed interests that curry favorable policy through campaign "donations" to congress members on the Hill Ron Paul excluded, and maybe a few others. What I would pay to be a fly on the wall on K Street and try and gather info on the lobbyists speaking to congressional members and or aids. I understand the Petro Dollar Agreement as well and I wish more Americans were knowledgeable of the Petro Dollar Agreement, and also the Federal Reserve.I did not saty their were not other influence peddlers (lobbyists) in the D.C. or the District of Corruption, I was speaking about AIPAC in staying relevant to the article i commented on

        December 22, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
      • Thinker23

        Massoud... The US Congress is an assembly of REPRESENTATIVES. These people REPRESENT American citizens in general and people who voted for them, in particular. American citizens are willing to tell their representatives what their wishes and concerns are. Just like in court where professional lawyers have the best chance of promoting the interests of their clients professional lobbyists have the best chance of delivering their clients' wishes and concerns to the Congress. Just like professional lawyers professional lobbyists charge fees for their services. Lobbying is just as legal as practicing law and while we all would like to live in an ideal world where where are no criminals, no lawyers and no lobbyists we still live in the real world where all these professions exist.

        December 23, 2012 at 8:31 am |
  14. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    So McCain is opposed to Hagel because of Hagel's calling out AIPAC which McCain tries to deny exists, while it shoves money in his campaign chest. The other comment I heard from McCain was that Hagel was not "Republican enough". Gimme a break.

    December 21, 2012 at 8:02 pm | Reply
    • actionjacks7

      AIPAC and Israel own most of Congress. They're nothing but a bunch of PUNKS.

      December 22, 2012 at 9:03 am | Reply
      • Thinker23

        Are you telling us that the Arabs are SO DUMB that they're incapable of offering the Congress more that AIPAC does considering the almost unlimited amount of petrodollars in their disposal? If I was an Arab I would be insulted.

        December 22, 2012 at 6:18 pm |

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