Chuck Hagel's Jewish Critics Relent After Nod

Mainstream Groups Won't Oppose Obama's PIck for Pentagon

Military Man: President Obama introduced ex-Sen. Chuck Hagel as a hard-headed patriot. He might have gained the upper hand in his battle to win confirmation as the next Pentagon chief.
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Military Man: President Obama introduced ex-Sen. Chuck Hagel as a hard-headed patriot. He might have gained the upper hand in his battle to win confirmation as the next Pentagon chief.

By Nathan Guttman

Published January 08, 2013, issue of January 18, 2013.
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It’s a different ballgame now.

After President Obama announced his selection of Chuck Hagel as defense secretary, pro-Israel activists and mainstream Jewish groups toned down criticism of the controversial choice to lead the Pentagon, who analysts say is now a prohibitive favorite to win confirmation.

Most Jewish groups have made clear they will not lobby against Hagel’s confirmation in the Senate, leaving the floor for only smaller groups on the right wing of the Jewish community to attack the former Nebraska Senator as anti-Semitic and unfriendly to Israel.

The shift came as Obama transformed the Hagel fight by officially announcing his choice of Hagel to replace Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense. Obama also selected his counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan to head the CIA.

Obama portrayed Hagel as a hard-headed patriot who would think twice before putting Americans in harm’s way.

“Chuck knows that war is not an abstraction,” Obama said at the White House. “He understands that sending young Americans to fight and bleed in the dirt and mud, that’s something we only do when it’s absolutely necessary.”

With Hagel’s nomination made official, political analysts predict he will be confirmed by the Senate, despite what is bound to be a set of heated confirmation hearings.

Jewish activists were unhappy with the choice but fell in line with their traditional reluctance to challenge a president’s right to pick his cabinet members.


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