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More New (Old) Hagel Speeches Spark Concern

More New (Old) Hagel Speeches Spark Concern

As former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) faces a Republican filibuster in the Senate Thursday afternoon against his confirmation as Secretary of Defense, several liberal commentators are starting to wonder openly about his chances, following the release of yet another controversial old speech–this time an address at Rutgers University in 2007.

Earlier today, Alana Goodman of the Washington Free Beacon wrote about the speech, and a contemporaneous blog about it that suggested Hagel had accused Israel of controlling U.S. foreign policy. “The State Department has become adjunct to the Israeli Foreign Minister’s office,” political consultant George Ajjan quoted Hagel as saying at the time. Liberal journalist Jeffrey Goldberg noted: “If this is true, it’s pretty bad for Hagel.”

Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kazcynski was quick to locate and publish the text of the speech. Buzzfeed Politics Editor Ben Smith declared at first that there was “[n]othing eyebrow raising in that prepared text.”

He revised that judgment a few minutes later: “Actually, that ’07 Hagel speech isn’t so innocuous, on a second read.”

The paragraph that caused Smith to change his mind:

The United States must be prepared to act boldly and exploit opportunities to re-frame our relationship with Iran. Engagement should not be limited to government-to-government contact…but rather find new and imaginative ways to reach out to the Iranian people. Part of that initiative could be offering to re-open a consulate in Tehran…not formal diplomatic relations…but a Consulate…to help encourage and facilitate people-to-people exchange. All nations of Europe and most of our allies in the Middle East and Asia have diplomatic relations with Iran.

Kaczynski noted that the question-and-answer section of the speech had not been located. No video of the speech has yet emerged.

Separately, the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) released video of a June 2008 speech about which Hagel had failed to inform the Senate Armed Services Committee. Both Hagel and the ADC had claimed that the speech was informal. Yet as Breitbart News had reported, while the speech may have been extemporaneous, all signs indicated that it was a formal address to an avowedly anti-Israel organization.

Dylan Byers of Politico had suggested that the ADC speech was “empty” of content for “right-wing blogs” to seize upon, but the point made by Breitbart News and others was that Hagel had failed to disclose it at all.

Senate Majority Leader announced Thursday that he would call for a cloture vote on Hagel’s confirmation on Thursday afternoon, not Friday as had originally been expected.


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