Washington’s Latest Issue Industry: The Anti-Chuck Hagel Lobby

All it takes in Washington these days to turn an opinion into an industry is a little planning, a few meetings, a coordinated plan and enough dollars. The latest example of this is the ever-growing and -sophisticated campaign against President Obama’s nomination of former Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel for defense secretary.

A loose confederation of Republican lawmakers and pundits, pro-Israeli organizations and gay rights groups have mobilized to mount a collective push to convince enough GOP and pro-Israeli senators to shoot down the Hagel nomination.

Foreign policy- and national security-minded Intercepts readers likely are focused on how Hagel’s views would affect the advice he would, if confirmed, give Obama about situations that might include or affect Israel.

In a 2008 interview with author Aaron David Miller Hagel said of Capitol Hill: “The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here.” He noted, as a senator, he never recalled signing policy letters sent around Capitol Hill by AIPAC, a leading pro-Israel advocacy organization because “I’m a United States senator … not an Israeli senator.”

That ignited a firestorm that likely will rage until the moment the Senate votes on the nomination. One group that is aggressively opposing Hagel is called the Emergency Committee for Israel, which has even set up a special anti-Hagel website that pans him issue-by-issue. That site that urges visitors to “tell your senators Chuck Hagel is too extreme to be secretary of defense.”

And, in the video above, EIC points out several issues on which it believes Hagel and Obama disagree. For instance, the video repeats Obama’s stance that military action against Iran to halt its nuclear arms program remains on the table; but it then quotes Hagel as saying “military action is not a viable, feasible, responsible option.” Playing off Hagel’s own words, the video then states for defense secretary the Nebraskan is “not a responsible option.”

Hagel attempted to fight back in a Monday interview with a home-state newspaper, stating those opposing him have “completely distorted” his views. He also said he has “unequivocal, total support for Israel,” and endorsed the Obama administration’s use of tough multilateral sanctions against Tehran — Hagel contends he opposed unilateral sanctions.

All indications are, however, that the anti-Hagel industry is just getting started. Expect a loud, contentious confirmation process.



John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett