As Hearings Continue, Hagel Must Own Up To 'Dumb' Comment

getty images

By Nathan Guttman

Published January 31, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

As the Senate Armed Services Committee continued its hearing for the confirmation of Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense, it became clear that Hagel’s greatest critics are his former colleagues from the Republican side of the aisle. Veteran senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, both of whom worked with Hagel closely during his 12 years in the Senate, led the charges against him during the hearing.

Graham, who made no secret of his opposition to Hagel’s nomination from the outset, led an interrogation-style line of questioning, focusing on Hagel’s now-famous remarks to David Aaron Miller in which he spoke of the “Jewish lobby” and its “intimidating” power over decision makers in Washington leading to “dumb” actions regarding the Middle East.

“Name one person here who’s been intimidated by the Jewish lobby,” Graham fired at Hagel. “Name one.”
“I don’t know,” Hagel replied.
“Then why did you say it?”
“I didn’t have a specific person in mind.”
Graham continued:
“Name one dumb thing we’ve been goaded into doing due to pressure by the Israeli or Jewish lobby.”
“I have already stated that I regret the terminology,” Hagel answered.
Graham then asked Hagel to name “one dumb thing” that senators were pressured to do by the pro-Israel lobby.
Hagel replied: “I don’t know.”
“Do you agree with me you shouldn’t have said something like that?”
“Yes,” Hagel admitted. “I’ve already said that.”
Graham concluded his line of questioning by stating Hagel’s record on Israel “runs chills up my spine.”

He also asked the nominee about a letter supporting Israel which Hagel refused to sign while he was in the Senate. In a highly theatrical moment, Graham handed Hagel the letter and asked him to consider signing it now.

Freshman senator Ted Cruz provided the committee with some audio- visual moments when he played a recording of an interview Hagel gave Al Jazeera network. Cruz claimed that the interview confirmed that Hagel views America as “the world’s worst bully,” a description that Hagel, and committee chairman Carl Levin, disputed.

More than half of the session, up to its second recess taken at 2 PM, was devoted to issues relating to Israel, Iran, and the pro-Israel lobby. The debate also went on outside of the committee room. In a joint interview on MSNBC, Democratic senator Claire McCaskill and Republican adviser Dan Senor traded barbs over Hagel’s views on Israel. Senor listed all the Jewish groups that oppose the nomination, including the American Jewish Committee, the Anti Defamation League, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center. But McCaskill demonstrated that she also has a good grasp of Jewish organizational politics. “You and I both know that if Chuck Hagel presented a threat to Israel, AIPAC would be swarming over the Hill,” she said, adding that had there been a problem with Hagel “You wouldn’t have Chuck Schumer coming out as strongly as he has for Chuck Hagel. These are in fact, the extreme group in this advocacy area.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.