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How the Chuck Hagel Brawl Exposes Neocons and Reveals the Limits of American Power

The kerfuffle over Hagel as a pick for Secretary of Defense does much to outline the contours of prevailing wisdom among the intellectual classes of DC and New York.

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When contacted by The Daily Beast’s Ali Gharib about the seized-upon quote, the book’s author  responded, “seized upon is an understatement. It was hijacked.” As Gharib explains:

In the passage, Miller noted that few members of Congress are willing to publicly criticize AIPAC or Israel, but there are a few exceptions. “One who is willing is Chuck Hagel, the two-term Republican senator from Nebraska,” Miller  wrote. “Of all my conversations, the one with Hagel stands apart for its honesty and clarity.” [The line in question] begins with this statement from Miller: “Hagel is a strong supporter of Israel and a believer in shared values.” I asked Miller if he still viewed Hagel as “pro-Israel.” “I don’t think there’s a Senator of note in the Senate who is not pro-Israel,” he responded. “But there is a difference between a special relationship with Israel and an exclusive relationship with Israel. I believe in the former and Chuck Hagel believes the former.”

Despite the reassurances from Miller, more troubling accusations have come to light recently. Reporting in The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative online publication, on January 3, Adam Kredo  quotes the hearsay of Marsha Halteman—director for military and law enforcement programs at the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA)—as further evidence of ingrained prejudice. Describing a 1989 meeting with Hagel while he was president and CEO of the World USO, Halteman recalls a divisive meeting over the USO Haifa Center, in which “he said to me, ‘Let the Jews pay for it’.” Kredo continues:

“He essentially told us that if we wanted to keep the USO [in Haifa] open—and when I say ‘we’, he meant ‘the Jews’—he said the Jews could pay for it,” said Halteman, who recalled being taken aback by the comment.

In addition to the poor taste in word and sentiment, the article charges that Hagel attempted to shut down the otherwise successful USO mission in Haifa during his tenure. The Atlantic contacted the Israeli director of the Haifa USO during the period in question, who  denied these claims, saying Hagel’s tenure “was an absolute gift from God.”

WhoWhatWhy contacted Ms. Halteman for further detail and corroboration about the incident. As of yet we have not received a response.

The Not So Odd Couple

Ms. Halteman’s unconfirmed accusation of anti-Semitism is not the only imputation of bigotry that has dogged Chuck Hagel’s nomination. The Republican LGBT advocacy group, Log Cabin Republicans (LCR), published a  full-page ad in the New York Times on December 27 that attacked Hagel as anti-Israel, anti-gay, and soft on Iran. The ad quoted comments Hagel made 15 years ago about James Hormel, President Clinton’s openly gay then-nominee for US ambassador to Luxembourg:

“They are representing America [as ambassador]. They are representing our lifestyle, our values, our standards. And I think it is an inhibiting factor to be gay — openly, aggressively gay.”

As Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald  noted, the ad aroused much curiosity for its expensive purchase (published rates stipulate such a buy can cost in excess of six figures), the odd conglomeration of Middle East policy and LGBT advocacy for a group with no demonstrated prior concern for the former, and the group’s record of openly supporting GOP nominees with  far more egregious anti-gay records than Hagel.

When questioned by Greenwald about the ad buy, the group’s Executive Director, R. Clark Cooper, affirmed that LCR did not pay for it out of existing funds, but that it was “being funded by a number of donors.” Cooper refused to identify them or whether they were first time donors. As for LCR’s objections to Hagel’s nomination in light of their support for more openly anti-gay Republicans, Cooper stated, “LCR is particularly concerned about Chuck Hagel … because of the role he would play in continuing to oversee the implementation of open service of the military,” despite their open support for presidential candidate Mitt Romney, an avowed advocate for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

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