Hagel: Hey, sorry about that “Jewish lobby” remark; Update: Schumer to back Hagel

posted at 10:01 am on January 15, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

How concerned is the White House over Chuck Hagel’s confirmation chances?  Enough to have him produce a written apology for the most inflammatory of his comments well ahead of his first hearing.  In a letter to Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Hagel expressed regret for referring to a “Jewish lobby,” claiming he only did so once:

Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), President Obama’s pick for Defense secretary, expressed regret for a past comment about the “Jewish lobby” which has threatened to derail his nomination.

In a letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), released Monday, Hagel called the remark a “poor choice of words,” and vowed that he would work to “expand the depth and breadth of U.S.-Israel cooperation” if confirmed for the Pentagon’s top post.

“I regret saying it,” Hagel wrote. “I used that terminology only once, in an interview. I recognize that this kind of language can be construed as anti­-lsrael. I know the pro­-Israel lobby is comprised of both Jewish and non-Jewish Americans.” …

“In the Senate, I was a strong supporter of Defense appropriations, which provided enduring support for Israel’s security. Most Americans, myself included, are overwhelmingly supportive of a strong U.S.-Israel strategic and security relationship. This broad support comes-from both Jews and non-Jews alike,” said Hagel.

Claiming this as a one-off could end up backfiring on Hagel.  It certainly might have been a one-time stumble, but Hagel and the White House had better hope it’s true, or that any other repetitions happened outside of the range of a live microphone.  Otherwise, they’re looking at a Mark Fuhrman scenario, and a public-relations disaster if more of these kinds of comments come to light.

The letter is curious, too, for its intended recipient.  Why send it to Barbara Boxer? She’s hardly the point person for Democrats on Hagel; that’s Chuck Schumer, whose decision will make or break Hagel’s nomination.  Carl Levin would have been the most appropriate correspondent, as chair of the Armed Services Committee, or Richard Blumenthal, who sits on the committee and sounded as though he was looking for a reason to support Hagel on Sunday.  Boxer, who chairs Environment and Public Works and sits on Foreign Relations, won’t get a vote on Hagel in committee, and no one would seriously have thought she would oppose an Obama nominee in the first place.

On Iran, Hagel insists that he’s a get-along-to-go-along kind of guy:

“I agree that with Iran’s continued rejection of diplomatic overtures, further effective sanctions – both multilateral and unilateral – may be necessary and I will support the President,” said Hagel.

“I have always been supportive of a strong U.S.-Israel strategic relationship and always supported Israel’s right to defend itself against attack,” he added.

This is the more important issue, and Hagel’s record speaks for itself.  He staunchly opposed efforts to impose these sanctions on Iran in the first place, opposed efforts to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization based on its support (financial and otherwise) of terrorist networks, and claimed in Pakistan in 2008 that the military options for the US and Israel to stop Iran from nuclear-weapons capability were irrational and unrealistic.  That puts Hagel on the fringe of both parties, and sends a curious message of indifference to Iran at a critical time in their pursuit of nuclear weapons.

The letter might help Hagel gain more enthusiasm among Democrats already looking to support him, but it’s not clear at all that it will dent the skepticism among those who aren’t.

Update: Apparently, the letter was good enough for Schumer:

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced his support Tuesday for the nomination of former senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, delivering a key vote for the Nebraska Republican’s confirmation after weeks of voicing doubt about his positions on security issues related to Israel and Iran.

Schumer, the No. 3 Democrat and most senior Jewish senator, made the decision following a 90-minute meeting Monday in the West Wing, a secretive huddle that Schumer and White House officials kept under wraps until the decision to announce his support today.

“Senator Hagel could not have been more forthcoming and sincere,” Schumer said Tuesday in a statement. “Based on several key assurances provided by Senator Hagel, I am currently prepared to vote for his confirmation. I encourage my Senate colleagues who have shared my previous concerns to also support him.”

That should settle the matter … assuming there are no other surprises.


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Once in public at any rate.

Bmore on January 15, 2013 at 10:07 AM

Once a Jew hater, always a Jew hater.

tomas on January 15, 2013 at 10:12 AM

“I used it only once…but now I’m smart enough not to let you ****s know what I really think.”

BuckeyeSam on January 15, 2013 at 10:13 AM

Yeah sure.

The best and the brightest in this administration, yessir.

Bishop on January 15, 2013 at 10:15 AM

He was strong on appropriations for defense, and that means he was strong on Israel? If that isn’t damning himself on this issue with faint praise, it’s hard to imagine what would be.

And, while we’re at it, perhaps he could comment on his repeated refusal to vote for resolutions supporting Israel, or condemning terrorist organizations.

At this point, I think the best thing for Hagel to do (apart from drowning himself) would be to go on Oprah and confess to having had a problem with anti-Semitism in the past, and insist that he’s clean now.

morganfrost on January 15, 2013 at 10:15 AM

I think his comment that the Israelis should pay for a USO was offensive.

Blake on January 15, 2013 at 10:19 AM

This reminds me a little of two political cartoons that ran in The Chicago Tribune shortly after Jesse Jackson’s “NYC is Hymietown” crack about 25 years ago or so.

In the first, Jackson was depicted talking and walking with two black colleagues. The caption had Jackson saying something to the effect of “So what’s the big deal with what I said?” In the sky and bearing down on all three of them was an Israeli fighter plane with its sights on Jackson.

In the second, Jackson was shown standing with two much-shorter, Hasidic Jews. The caption had one of the Jews looking up at Jackson and saying to the effect, “Well, we accept your apology. Just don’t let it happen again…boy.”

BuckeyeSam on January 15, 2013 at 10:20 AM

What is a problem with hating Jews? I’m a Jew, and every time I see the crosstabs of New York or Florida vote, I hate Jews with passion. It’s not the Israeli Jews, however, that I have a problem with…

Archivarix on January 15, 2013 at 10:26 AM

Well, it’s not like people’s political careers are ruined with a one-time comment.

Oops, Mr. Aikin is on the phone. He sounds all macaca’d up.

DrAllecon on January 15, 2013 at 10:29 AM

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced his support Tuesday for the nomination of former senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, delivering a key vote for the Nebraska Republican’s confirmation after weeks of voicing doubt about his positions on security issues related to Israel and Iran.

Upchuck Schumer strikes again.

Bitter Clinger on January 15, 2013 at 10:31 AM

Chuckie what a shock

cmsinaz on January 15, 2013 at 10:32 AM

Ted Kennedy apologized to the Massachusetts voters saying he only killed the one girl.

Flange on January 15, 2013 at 10:32 AM

“I am sorry for remarking ill of the Jewish Lobby, I know those hook nosed, money grubbing, shysters are actually very nice people”…”Those kikes do great work, you just can’t trust them, some of them are my best friends”…

right2bright on January 15, 2013 at 10:33 AM

Not buying it, Chuckles. You’re only apologizing when it suits you. Get in line behind Lance Armstrong.

rbj on January 15, 2013 at 10:33 AM

Seriously, someone thought Schumer would go against Obama? Wake up and smell reality. Obama could have nominated someone from Hitler’s inner circle and every single one of the top Dems would have fallen in line and approved of that person.

ButterflyDragon on January 15, 2013 at 10:35 AM

Mrs. Bagel isn’t going to like his flirting with Boxer like that. Or was it her idea?

Seth Halpern on January 15, 2013 at 10:42 AM

ButterflyDragon on January 15, 2013 at 10:35 AM

Absolutely – Chuckie just huffed and puffed to pander to the Jewish Dem voters.

katiejane on January 15, 2013 at 10:49 AM

Oh good, Schumer is backing Hagel . . . now everything is ok. Did anybody really expect Schumer to buck Obama?

rplat on January 15, 2013 at 11:03 AM

Schulmer is not a Jew he is a liberal. Liberal first everything else second!

cw10036 on January 15, 2013 at 11:14 AM

coughbullsh-tcough

Mr. Grump on January 15, 2013 at 11:22 AM

Two Chucks don’t make a right!

tomshup on January 15, 2013 at 11:29 AM

Can you just imagine a commercial airline captain offering up the excuse at his firing hearing “Yeah, but I only crashed your 747 once. What about all the other successful flights I provided for you over the years?”

philoise65 on January 15, 2013 at 11:33 AM

Hagel wrote. “I used that terminology only once, in an interview. I recognize that this kind of language can be construed as anti­-lsrael. I know the pro­-Israel lobby is comprised of both Jewish and non-Jewish Americans.” …

Its been my experience that when people say things they have thought it enough times they don’t see anything wrong with what they say.

When they put things in print, it usually indicates their true feelings or attitudes and they are completely unaware that there could be something wrong with it. In Hagel’s case, he is is a true ‘closet anti-semite’ that outed himself and he is getting cover from everyone that can turn their head or hold their nose.

Schumer is a Liberal ideolog first and foremost, and then he’s in it for his own aggrandizement. He covets Harry Reid’s position in the Senate and would put a knife in Reid’s back if he thought it would get him closer to that position.

belad on January 15, 2013 at 11:37 AM

Shocker!!! Schumer is a liberal, oba-mao, leech. He even looks like a smarmy, liberal liar.

ultracon on January 15, 2013 at 11:58 AM

His “Jewish lobby” and Iran statements are not the only problem with him. Recall that this is the guy who also encourages engagement with Hamas and refuses to sign petitions to the EU encouraging the EU to label Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, as the US has done long ago.

It’s not just a comment or two. It’s a pattern of behavior and that goes to show more about what’s at Hagel’s heart than any apology letter could ever do.

This is different from other so-called anti-Israel Republicans like Rand Paul who, in calling for the end of aid to Israel, do so out of a call for the end of aid to all countries. That’s not anti-Israel, that’s anti-aid (a position which we can debate on its own merits). If Chuck Hagel refused to sign a petition against North Korea, or Cuba, or even Islamist rebels in Mali, then maybe we could make some kind of argument that the guy is just inept at foreign policy. But all his trip-ups are all connected to Israel somehow and that’s why the Senate MUST refuse to confirm this appointment.

solatic on January 15, 2013 at 12:22 PM

Chuck U Schumer puts party over everything else in his life..he is pathetic…

Hagel is a liar and deceiver and will fit right in with this corrupt administration

NO republican should vote for this scumbag

sadsushi on January 15, 2013 at 1:59 PM