Is Hagel a Victim? Ask Hagel–in 2005

Is Hagel a Victim? Ask Hagel–in 2005

Is Chuck Hagel really the target of a witch-hunt? Here is what one prominent Senator had to say about the process: 

You know that we had a committee meeting to vote him out [i.e. to the full Senate]. You know that we decided…to investigate the new allegations and charges that have come in. I said, at the time, on the record, in the committee, and many times publicly: these are very serious allegations, and they deserve serious attention. And we should not move forward until we address these allegations…If there’s something deep enough there that truly disqualifies him, in some personal way or professional way, than I have to do the right thing: vote against my party and against my president. And I will do that if there’s something there that I think is serious enough.

That Senator was Chuck Hagel, speaking on May 3, 2005 about the nomination of John Bolton to be Ambassador to the United Nations. The “serious allegations” were primarily about how Bolton had treated subordinates, as well as his strident criticisms of the UN. 

And so we come full circle. Chuck Hagel faces serious allegations–not just his poor treatment of staff, which the Senate Armed Services Committee considered, but also his radical views on Iran, Israel, nuclear disarmament, and other issues. 

Hagel has also reportedly made a number of striking statements suggesting Jewish or Israeli control of branches of the U.S government, and has failed to disclose fully his recent speeches or relevant financial records. 

These are not, as Democrats have claimed, unprecedented questions. As Danielle Pletka observed last week, Democrats asked similar–and even more far-reaching, and less relevant–questions of Bolton during his nomination. (They went on to filibuster Bolton’s nomination; he eventually received a recess appointment.)

So Hagel is not being held to a different standard. He is being held to the very standard that Hagel himself applied to Bolton. There is nothing untoward about delaying Hagel’s confirmation for further investigation. There is nothing wrong with Senators like Ted Cruz of Texas pressing hard for answers. Indeed, they are, commendably, doing their duty.

Hagel also said in 2005 that he believed the Senate should generally defer to the president’s choices for his Cabinet, and noted that he had done the same, regardless of party:

I have always taken the approach, and I think in the nine years I have been in the Senate I have only voted against one senior member of an administration’s Cabinet. That if it comes down to a line call, a subjective call–and some of these do–I give the benefit of the doubt to the president, whether it’s Clinton, or Bush, or whoever the president [is]. He won the election, he deserves his team. I may not think this guy is the right guy, I may not think he’s got the skills, if I was president, I may not nominate him, but I’m not the president.

Indeed, Hagel voted in favor of Bolton ten days later, telling the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “I have enough confidence in this president, this Secretary of State to take them at their word–and Mr. Bolton at his word when he says that ‘I will be a uniter.'”

And so if there is nothing untoward in Hagel’s background, he should turn over the documents, come clean about new revelations, and trust the judgment of his former peers. Otherwise, he should withdraw.

For many, there is enough already known about Hagel to disqualify him, not least of which is his thin resumé. (He knows little, by his own admission, about defense policy; he is far more comfortable with foreign affairs.)

Regardless, Hagel is not a victim. He is quite plainly being held to his own standard. 

What is striking is not how Hagel is being treated, but how Democrats seem determined to push him through on a party-line vote. There was Republican dissent on Bolton; there is none among Democrats on Hagel, even though Democrats opposed Hagel’s views on Israel in 2007, and Obama’s own Jewish outreach director, Ira Forman, said in 2009 that he would oppose Hagel’s nomination for a high position with a “policy role.”

Have pro-Israel views been suppressed within the Democratic Party? That’s a witch-hunt worth investigating.