John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

Header

What Goes Around, Comes Around

Posted on January 11, 2013


I think it was mistake for the neo-cons to attack Chuck Hagel as an anti-Semite.

But that is exactly what they did weeks before President Obama announced that he wanted the former Nebraska Senator to take the helm at the Department of Defense.

Pro-Israel hawks have been unrelenting in their criticism of Mr. Hagel.

They have launched an ad campaign in the Washington DMA, blasting Hagel’s views on the war in Iraq, sanctions against Iran, and his lack of support for Israel.

I can’t imagine that the 30-second ads will have much of an impact.

They have also commenced what started out as a whispering campaign and now has become a full-on shouting frenzy.    The campaign strongly suggests that because Mr. Hagel hated the war in Iraq that somehow he also hates Jews.

These charges are based on some pretty scant evidence.  Hagel once called the American Israel Political Action Committee the Jewish Lobby.

Not a politically correct thing to say, obviously.

Jewish Americans are all over the place on what our proper policy towards Israel should be.   Like with any religious/ethnic group, Jews have serious differences of opinion among themselves on most issues.

Hagel was wrong to use the term “Jewish lobby.”   He has apologized for it.

While Hagel’s remarks may have been impolitic,  I doubt very seriously that they amount to anti Semitism.   And there were plenty of Jews who strongly opposed our Iraq invasion, so to say that because Hagel opposed the war, he is anti-Semitic, I think is just wrong.

I don’t necessarily agree with all of Chuck Hagel’s politics.   But he turned out to be pretty right about the Iraq War.  We went in under false pretenses, and we leave Iraq with a country that is far more under the influence of Iran than it was when Saddam Hussein was around.

As you may recall, there were no weapons of mass destruction found there.

Neo-conservatives got us into Iraq.  Neo-cons in the White House and in the Pentagon helped to push Colin Powell into providing justification for the war.  I don’t know how much convincing George W. Bush needed, but whatever rationale he needed was primarily provided by neo-conservatives in the Defense Department and in the Vice President’s office.

Hagel initially supported the war, as did I and most other Americans.  But Hagel concluded early on that the war was not worth it, and he pushed for us to get out.

My own view was that we couldn’t leave precipitously (that would have caused a complete disaster).  But that doesn’t mean that I was happy about being misled by folks who clearly had an agenda to topple Hussein through war.

The problem for the neo-conservative crowd is that they have now put so much pressure on the Senate and Obama to cave into their demands on Hagel, that if don’t prevail, they will have egg all over their collective faces.

It will be perceived as a wholesale rejection of the neo-conservative philosophy.  And I bet you that Hagel will prove to be pretty popular with the American people should he get the job.

He has a great soldier’s story.  He has three purple hearts.  He fought in the infantry in Viet Nam.  He knows first-hand what real bullets are all about.   And he has a knack for speaking truth to power.

He could end up being a problem for Obama, although it is far likelier that he will provide cover for a President who wants to downsize the military and sharply downsize our presence overseas.

The Hagel attacks have progressed.  First, he was an anti-Semite.  Then he was anti-gay because he said some things about James Hormel, Bill Clinton’s pick to be Ambassador to Luxembourg and a homosexual.  And now the debate is turning to Hagel’s position on the size and scope of the military.

Only the third line of attack makes sense to me .  Calling Hagel names or impugning his character is not legitimate, unless you have more solid proof.  Disagreeing strongly with his position (or more importantly, the President’s position) on the proper level of defense spending is completely legitimate.

In the 1980’s, Democrats unfairly attacked Republican Senator John Tower, who was picked to by George H.W. Bush to be Defense Secretary.  By rejecting Tower, the Democrats unintentionally set off a series of events that eventually led to Newt Gingrich being Speaker of the House and Dick Cheney being Vice President of the United States (Cheney was the House Minority Whip who Bush picked to be Defense Secretary, which gave him the credibility to become the Second Bush’s Vice President.  When Cheney left the House, Gingrich won the Whip job over Ed Madigan, and from that Whip job ascended to the Speaker’s Chair)

Who knows what will happen if the Senate rejects Chuck Hagel based on unfounded charges of being an anti-Semite and being anti-gay?   But the neo-conservatives ought to remember that ancient piece of political advice:  what goes around comes around.