I’ve no idea how former Nebraska senator and decorated Vietnam War veteran Chuck Hagel became President Obama’s preferred nominee for the job of Secretary of Defense. But when I learned about Hagel’s prospects, I was delighted. A social conservative with a skeptical view of America’s mission to convert the rest of the world to our current version of democracy, Hagel is someone I’ve long admired. Indeed I was hoping his campaign for president would take off four years ago. (Alas, it didn’t.)
For about a week after Hagel’s name surfaced as a possibility for Secretary of Defense, I was also hoping that his nomination would sail through the Senate effortlessly. I no longer think that’s the case. The Log Cabin Republicans yesterday took out a full-page New York Times advertisement to attack Hagel, who once voiced objections to having those who are openly gay serving in the military. He also objected to the muzzling of free speech in what looked like hate speech laws. His opponents have scolded him for being deficient in sensitivity, and in our politically correct democracy that may be the worst possible offense that any mortal could commit.
Leading the charge against Hagel has been the neocon press, with the Weekly Standard out in front of the pack. It seems that Hagel has fought with AIPAC and even once misspoke when he referred to his trouble with “the Jewish lobby.” He later took this back and stated that he meant “the Israeli lobby.” It’s not that the former Senator has disagreed consistently with Israeli policies, and most of the time in the Senate he came down with the rest of his party behind the Israeli government. But Hagel has expressed reservations about his party always lining up on one side in the Middle Eastern conflict and has suggested this degree of partisanship weakens the credibility of Republicans as possible peace brokers. Hagel also made fun of those Republicans (such as Lindsay Graham and John McCain) who went beyond the lobby in their enthusiasm for everything the Israelis did.