Obama Picks Hagel for Defense; Anti-War, Anti-Israel Activists Rejoice

It is official: President Barack Obama will announce the nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense on Monday afternoon. In making his choice, the president has fulfilled the worst expectations of his foreign policy critics, while delighting anti-war activists and the anti-Israel left. 

The Hagel nomination represents the return of the radical Barack Obama, hitherto hidden under an opportunistic anti-terror persona.

There is, as Bill Kristol observed last week, “no case for Hagel.” His supporters cannot cite any substantive reason he should be Secretary of Defense; instead, they argue that “Hagel must be appointed in order to spite many of his critics.” Peter Beinart of the Daily Beast confirms that assessment with his weak defense of Hagel this morning: he must be appointed, Beinart argues, to destroy “the Republican foreign policy establishment.”

Not to defend the country, not to strengthen our military, but to win a political argument. 

Beinart--whose wife worked for the White House vetting operation, a fact that is rarely mentioned when he comments on politics but is perhaps relevant here--represents the left’s consensus on Hagel. (And on other matters--Beinart is so slavishly politically correct that he is careful to assign female gender to a hypothetical Martian in his piece.)

The case against Hagel is clear. He has opposed sanctions on Iran while supporting negotiations with Hamas, the terrorist Palestinian group. He voted for the Iraq war but opposed it at a time when pulling out would have led to civil war and genocide. He has openly expressed bigotry against gays (for which he has offered a belated apology). He prefers a smaller military and a humbler America on the world stage. As does Obama.

Those pro-Israel, pro-defense Democrats who argued that Hagel was “the wrong man, being considered for the wrong job, at the wrong time” (as Alan Dershowitz put it) now face the reality that they have been used, and abused, by Obama. Dershowitz in particular renewed his endorsement after being reassured that Obama would support Israel and stand up to Iran in his second term. Obama misled him, and to many others.

Jewish legislators are unsettled by the choice of Hagel, a man who once railed against the so-called “Jewish lobby.” Sen. Chuck Schumer has refused to endorse Hagel. Even far-left Barney Frank, who covets John Kerry’s Senate seat, opposes Hagel. Perhaps now we will be spared the absurd, empty boasts of the likes of Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who has insisted that President Obama “has been a better, more consistent friend to Israel than previous administrations.”

It is amusing to watch liberal pundits like Michael Tomasky and Andrew Sullivan fall all over themselves to excuse Hagel’s anti-gay views: “It's really not hard to imagine that what Hagel thought on that issue in 1998 isn't what he thinks today,” says Tomasky. “So much has changed.” Hagel’s anti-Israel, anti-”neocon” views trump everything else.

The left likes Hagel for the same reason President Obama does: he offers a chance to punish the Republican opposition, first by making them argue against one of their own, second by assigning him the task of slashing defense budgets and capabilities. And all under the veneer of a contrived “bipartisanship” that unifies the ascendant anti-war left with the rejected isolationist right. 

Welcome to the new, “flexible,” second Obama term.


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