In 2002, then-Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel was the only member of the United States Congress to receive a special invitation from former President Jimmy Carter to join him on a trip to Cuba. Mr. Hagel chose not to go, citing scheduling conflicts and concerns over the optics of such a trip.
But according to a 2002 article Breitbart News obtained through the Omaha World Herald’s archives, Mr. Hagel went on to say this: “What Jimmy Carter’s saying … is exactly right: Our 40-year policy toward Cuba is senseless,” Hagel said. “It’s outdated, it’s irrelevant and it just doesn’t fit. We should be wise and be trying to enhance America’s position with peoples of the world.”
In addition to support for Mr. Carter’s Cuba policy, Mr. Hagel said that the way to undercut Cuban dictator Fidel Castro was to lend him access to the world’s largest market, the United States: “If you start opening trade with Castro and opening a dialogue and a relationship, I think that cuts directly against his interests,” said Mr. Hagel. Asked whether such a move would merely strengthen the power of Castro’s regime, Mr. Hagel replied: “That’s just not true,” he said. “That’s the same tired argument that everybody uses.”
As Brandon Darby of Breitbart News reported on Sunday, President Barack Obama’s historic easing of sanctions against Cuba have coincided with a dramatic spike in political repressions and confirmed detentions of political dissidents by the Cuban regime:
Both Reuters and the Miami Herald report that Cuban Security agents broke their previous records of government political repression in 2012 with 6,602 confirmed detentions of political dissidents. In 2011 there were 4,123 confirmed political arrests which was even higher than the 2,704 arrests from 2010. Both Reuters and the Miami Herald based their data on a 2012 year-end report from the Cuban Committee for Human Rights and National Reconciliation.
While Mr. Hagel chose not to accept Mr. Carter’s travel invitation, critics of the Hagel nomination for Defense Secretary say the two men share similar views on things other than Cuba policy. “Chuck Hagel would not be the first, second, or third choice for the American Jewish community’s friends of Israel,” says Anti-Defamation League head Abe Foxman. “The sentiments he’s expressed about the Jewish lobby border on anti-Semitism in the genre of professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt and former president Jimmy Carter.”