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Hagel Gets a Sensitivity Litmus Test from the Neocon Press
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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. McCain was rewarded for his cheer-leading with about 20 percent of the Jewish vote in a presidential race against the most pro-Palestinian Democratic candidate in U.S. history.


The neocons have gone after Hagel for being anti-Israeli and by implication anti-Semitic. They’ve also pulled out every charge that the left might care to feature about Hagel being a social reactionary who is too far on the right to represent us as secretary of defense. The neocons (including Fox News contributors) have attacked him repeatedly as a homophobe. But their main charge has been that Hagel once had kind words for the 95-year-old South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, at a birthday party Hagel and other senators attended. Supposedly Hagel made it appear that he was cool with Thurmond’s one-time segregationist record by praising the then almost senile senator’s “life well lived.” Apparently he should have pummeled the decrepit Southern lawmaker instead.

Reading this kind of slime (there is no other word for this invective) I almost feel relief that Obama was reelected as president. The thought of that weathervane Romney presiding over a government packed to the top with Bill Kristol’s buddies is far more frightening than any reckless spending program Obama has inflicted on us. I shudder to think that the main resistance to the leftist media and educational establishment in this country is coming from Bill’s boss and kindred spirit, Rupert Murdoch, who pays for Fox News and the Wall Street Journal. It is appalling that the “conservative” opposition is being funded by this Australian media baron, who is “conservative” on only one issue, an aggressive foreign policy.

The neocons are too powerful for GOP propagandists and establishment conservative journalists to defy. If they decide to pull the right leftward once again, they’re likely to get their way. It won’t be the first time they’ve prevailed. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the neocons upend Hagel while winning applause from both the social left and Christian Zionists in the GOP. I may be wrong, but after having seen the neocons win almost every battle they’ve entered for more than 30 years, I would be astonished to see them lose. Here’s hoping for a change in their fortunes, however, as we go into the New Year!

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Chuck Hagel, Neocons 
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  1. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Spot-on as always, Professor Paul.

  2. SDS says:

    Another good post- I, too, hoped he would pick up the gauntlet in 2008…. but preaching to the choir- anyone that reads this is already in the realist camp….. ANYONE who takes Bill Kristol seriously won’t read anything here… They take FOX as gospel…..


  3. Cliff says:

    ” If [the neocons] decide to pull the right leftward once again…”


    Gee, last week the Washington Post complained that Hegel was too “left” for the job, because he doesn’t support immediate war with Iran. Now, Mr Gottfried identifies the neocons thirst for war as a “left” position. I think they’re both wrong, but Mr Gottfried is incoherent as well. He seems to be writing from his own little bubble in reality. With friends like these, does Hegel need enemies?

  4. icarusr says:

    “The Log Cabin Republicans”

    Funny – they supported Romney on the grounds that you can’t trust his homophobic behaviour, actions and statements to represent his true self, which was, apparently, some Enlightened character no one but his wife and son had seen. It is a safe bet that whatever cause these clowns are supporting, it ain’t the gays.

  5. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I don’t know whether they win or lose regarding the nomination, but they have been backfooted in having their activities spotlighted early on. From the longer term perspective they have committed a serious blunder, as a few of them already seem to realize.

  6. […] Hagel Gets a Sensitivity Litmus Test From the Neocon Press – Paul Gottfried, SotU […]

  7. “Weathervane” Romney indeed would have been very dangerous in the White House.

  8. Clearly the writer is quite right to say the neocons are much too powerful for the good of the US. Too many Republicans are intimidated by them.

  9. Will says:

    “With friends like these, does Hegel need enemies?”

    I know Schopenhauer doesn’t like him.

  10. @Cliff: Many of us believe that the neocons are leftists who moved so far to the left that they only appear to be on the right. Look into their pasts and you will see early communist leanings. And certainly they are Big State believers.

    Overall it is strange but by now consistent to watch the GOP and FOX adopt positions contrary to prior ones. In this case, on a ‘sensitive’ social issue.

  11. Clint says:

    Abraham Foxman, the national director of the ADL,

    Hagel has “expressed himself in an interview about the power of the ‘Jewish lobby,’ declaring himself to be an American senator, not an Israeli senator,”
    That’s pretty disturbing language which … borders onto conspiratorial.”

    Apparently, Foxman wants An Israeli Senator to be Our United States Secretary of State.

  12. Clint says:

    Edit: Should be Secretary Of Defense.

    Meanwhile, Foxman is giving Kerry A Free Pass.

  13. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    “It is appalling that the “conservative” opposition is being funded by this Australian media baron, who is “conservative” on only one issue, an aggressive foreign policy.”

    Absolutely agree. The ease with which foreigners (Australians, Israelis, Brits, Hungarians, you name it) insinuate themselves into our political life – into actual political decision-making – is appalling. They slither in, mount a soapbox or grab a megaphone, and next thing you know they’re instructing the rest of us as to our patriotic duty. Who the hell do they think they are?

  14. lester says: • Website

    I think the fact that Obama and Biden both have a personal relationship with Hagel makes it seem like a natural choice and this will help them sell to to some skeptics. It’s hard to believe Lieberman, McCain and co will actually say any of this stuff in public where it can be youtubed and so forth. If it gets to the confirmation process he will be confirmed. They want to stop it before it starts.

  15. Ray says:

    I think we’ll have to refer to Weathervane Obama unless he actually nominates Hagel and fights for his confirmation. Methinks Obama is just hanging him out as leverage in the fiscal cliff negotiations (under the correct assumption that the Israel lobby has more influence in the congressional GOP than fiscal conservatives).

  16. Lieberman will be out of office in a few short weeks.

    That said–I must too disagree with the notion that neoconservatism is somehow leftist. The modern US left no longer marches to The Internationale, and hasn’t for a generation or more; the liberal wing of the Democratic Party generally prefers a less aggressive foreign policy (and does criticize Obama on this issue–even if most Democrats were actively supporting his re-election). There are, of course, quite a few hawks remaining in the Democratic Party, but those folks do not occupy the party’s left wing.

    If it weren’t for wildly diverging views on social issues, many in the Democratic left would be quite at home in the Buchananite right, and vice versa.

  17. Paul, the word around the senate was that Hagel was too “independent” (read: honest), and could not be “trusted” (i.e., bought) by the GOP establishment.

    Frankly, although no one mentions it, the head line after the election might well have read, “Voters reject war with Iran, Russia, and China.”

    The pretense that the election was run on the issue of “taxing the rich” is, in the words of Mr. Justice Goldberg (then UN Ambassador), “a gross canard cut out of whole cloth.”

    Envy, yes. But even more, the victor was free, uninhibited, promiscuous, unlimited, and taxpayer-subsidized SEX.

    Sex and Peace versus Austerity and War. Whew, that was easy!

  18. Isn’r the author using “leftward” in the sense that the neocons represent the Wilsonian-LBJ-ish impulse to shape history and the world according to our interests?

  19. As other people have written in the comments section, war does not appear on the left side of the political spectrum. The neo-conservatives are driving anti-war conservatives and libertarians out of the party. The inevitable result is a diminished Republican party in terms of the number of Republican voters and the number of donors to the Republican party. Chuck Hagel is a decent man,and Republican Senators would be wise to not oppose a possible nomination of Hagel for Defense Secretary. The “Three Amigos”; Lindsey Graham, Joe Lieberman,and John McCain would inevitably vote to not confirm Hagel as Defense Secretary,but many Republican Senators would vote in favor of Hagel. Obama would only need 60 yes votes in the Senate in regards to Hagel.

  20. Being able to differentiate U.S. interests from Israel’s makes you an anti-Semite in the same way that opposing affirmative action makes you a racist.

  21. AZS says:

    I have some Jewish roots and I don’t think the phrase “Jewish lobby” is offensive or innaccurate. To the Jewish lobbies it’s not just about lobbying for Israel but also about lobbying for the German guilt (and Austrian guilt, Hungarian guilt, Romanian guilt and to some extent even British guilt) about the Holocaust that Professor Gottfried often writes about. They lobby against the parties that oppose Muslim immigration to Europe, which shows that resentment of white Christians for them outweighs protecting Jews from violence in Europe. “Jewish lobby” does not necessarily mean “the Jews.”

  22. TomB says:

    AZS wrote:

    “I have some Jewish roots and I don’t think the phrase ‘Jewish lobby’ is offensive or innaccurate [sic].”

    Well, it’s obviously inaccurate to some degree given that obviously not all jews (and indeed probably not even a majority) are members or supporters of same.

    On the other hand it’s hard to imagine that it’s all that offensive to the usual suspects who jump on that inaccurate usage given what seems their complacency over what can seem the same by organizations such as:

    The American Jewish Committee
    The Jewish People Policy Institute
    The Jewish Agency
    The Jewish Council On Public Affairs
    The Republican Jewish Coalition
    The American Jewish Congress
    The Jewish Institute For National Security Affairs
    The Jewish National Fund
    The Conference Of Presidents Of Major American Jewish Organizations

    Nonetheless, given that there is a more accurate term and that it might give offense otherwise there would seem no reason not to use the more accurate. Just because someone slips in not using it is clearly no hanging offense though, and indeed there seems lots of reasons to suspect the motives of those alleging same.

    Racial/ethnic/gender/you name-it hysteria mongering can after all seem the affliction of our age.

  23. TomB- Actually it’s more a “Major Jewish Organization Lobby Supported by Dumbass Evangelicals” but that is a lot harder to say than Israel Lobby.

  24. TomB says:

    Phil Giraldi wrote:

    “Actually it’s more a “Major Jewish Organization Lobby Supported by Dumbass Evangelicals”

    That’s a keen point behind this good jape for sure, Phil, one that shouldn’t be forgotten. For obvious and good reasons I think most of us give lots of a pass to ordinary jewish folks who just reflexively give their support to an AIPAC or etc. Anyone in a group that’s had the recent history of the jews is deserving of much of a pass.

    No better word than “Dumbass” to describe the Evangelicals roped into the Lobby’s project though, and when you start to look you realize that they provide quite a bit of the oomph or cover that the Lobby has, especially that coming from Southern and Southwestern representatives and etc.

    “Dumbasses” amounts to *the* lapidary way to put it, Phil.

    Happy New Year everyone.

  25. […] also Paul Gottfried on one of his detractors’ more curious attempts: the neoconservative effort to apply a gay-rights litmus test against Hagel. Posted […]

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