Cross Posted at The Progressive Zionist
I write this diary because even though I in general oppose the Hagel nomination I think it is one of those things that will ultimately end up being about as significant as a "fart in a blizzard" (for lack of a better term).
So here are my thoughts... there are good and bad things about this nomination. In general I still oppose it because I think there are other politicians out there who are Democrats who would be more in line with Democratic Politics. Four names I can think of off the top of my head are General Wesley Clark, Admiral Joe Sestak, Admiral James Webb, and Former Senator Bob Kerrey.
There is also longtime Pentagon official and former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy who would be a historic choice given that she would be the FIRST female Defense Secretary. From everything I have read about Flournoy (and (here is an interesting article), she would be a good choice. So there are four names that I think are well qualified, and who could do a fine job AND are also Democrats.
Aside from some what I consider bigoted remarks regarding Jewish Americans and LGBT Americans the irksome thing for me in this nomination is that President Obama felt it was necessary to choose a Republican for this post. I didn't vote for, support or donate to the guy to put Republicans into the highest positions in our government. I really didn't. I voted for President Obama because I don't think the Republican Party is particularly good for our nation (and hasn't been for a long time) and having Republicans in high office is not positive. Chuck Hagel... is a Republican, and yes, though he bucks the establishment of the Party on a few issues, he is still a Republican through and through.
BUT.... again, the Sec. Def. doesn't have the power of the Sec. State and though the position has a guiding voice in government, it doesn't set our foreign policy agenda so really... there is not much there that I think will make any bit of difference one way or the other.
Anyhow, in the past few days I have been inundated with Chuck Hagel news.... Hagel this, and Hagel that. BUT, what is the reality of a Hagel appointment. Well on the Far Right we hear the screechings of the batshit racists who are pissed because they are certain that Hagel will help Iran get nukes, thinks that Hizbollah and Hamas should be our best buddies, wants to drop Israel into the ocean and wants eventually to enslave America to "Teh Ebilz Mooslim Empire" (Ok, that's an exaggeration but really not much of one - check out the bullshit that flows from the Hard Right).
At the same time we have the drooling bigots on the Hard Left who are absolutely positive that a Hagel nomination is the bestest thing in the world since the invention of indoor plumbing AND sliced bread. They are positive that Hagel at Defense means the absolute end of "Teh Ebilz JOOOO / IZRAILEE lobby111!!!!11" and that "Teh Ebilz IZREEL" is finally going to get theirs. Oh yeah and Iran will next become our "bestest friend in TEH WHOLE WORLD"... Just read some of those blogs.
Of course neither the batshit fringers on the hard right or the drooling bigots on the hard left are right. Most likely, none of those things will come to pass should Hagel clear confirmation. We will still be friends with Israel, there will continue to be military cooperation with the IDF. Yes, there will be friction with Israel due to the ascendency of the Hard Right, but and at the same time there will be friction with the Palestinians due to the rising popularity of Hamas and the Religious Islamists within the Palestinian Polity (not too mention friction with Egypt and the future rulers of Syria over that same issue).
The Middle East will come into hard focus in the coming years as the threat of Iranian Hegemony will need to be faced, and the U.S. will be angling towards building a regional coalition against the Iranians. SO, I think that there will be a focus on Israel and the West Bank in regards to the Occupation but, I think that was coming anyway, no matter who the Sec. Def. happens to be. Official U.S. policy stands diametrically opposed to the directions of both the Israeli AND Palestinian polity. Anyway, enough on that.
Although there is one funny aside with regards to the droolers on the Hard Left (particularly where they meet with the batshit Paulbots on the Hard Right). All these fools are absolutely convinced that AIPAC and TEH JOOZ (though they use Zionists and Israelis as cover terms) run the nation and our government. Just read hate sites like Stormfront, davidduke.com and MondoFront - you can see it there. YET, if this is the case, then how in the world did (snark coming) Superhero and all around scourge of the "Jewish Lobby" (Hagel's comment) Chuck Hagel even get the nomination? I mean if AIPAC runs things... that could never have... ROH 'ROH....
All this said and outside of the silly meta regarding the intertoobz, there are some good things about Hagel's nomination as well (at least in my opinion). The guy was a combat vet and was an enlisted man (rather than an officer). He led people in tough situations, made life and death decisions and apparently made them well (according to what I have read). I think he has a distinct understanding of the results of war policy. I can respect that. Though I am not not well versed in his politics as some, it seems that he is a strong advocate for veterans rights and did buck the Reagan administration (actually resigning from his post of Deputy Head of the VA) when they wanted to cut funding over benefits for Vietnam Vets.
SO for that, I think in his post (should he win confirmation) he will be a good addition. I am all in favor of our nation taking care of those who we ask to give everything. I have no issue when it comes to spending my tax dollars on support of veterans and veteran care. Given how crucial that is now, with our soldiers dealing with not one but TWO crappy situations (because Iraq is still really not yet over), I think it important that we have someone in the Sec. Def. post that understands veterans issues in personal terms.
I also support his position on extending rights of habeas corpus to AMERICAN prisoners at Guantanamo (though he voted AGAINST that for all prisoners). And his stand on ending the camp and it's practices there. I also support his stances on NOT capping America's foreign aid budget and support for funding regarding AIDS, TB, and Malaria.
Also, though I think his positions are over-hyped by his supporters (and over-stated by the lunatic fringe), I generally agree that engagement is preferable to "gunboat diplomacy" and ever increasing hyperbolic rantings as people on the right try to resurrect that wonderful time known as The Crusades (/snark). Just because you talk to someone doesn't mean you agree with them or will do what they want. That said, there also comes a time when you can talk as much as you want, but, it is not going to change anything. I think given Hagel's background and voting record on these things, he seems to understand that.
But through all that.. remember that Hagel voted FOR the Patriot Act and its re-authorization. Remember, he also voted to support FISA and EXPAND on Federal Wiretapping. So
HOWEVER, as I said before in general I oppose Hagel's nomination and think the President is making a mistake here. I can see WHY he is doing it, but, as I also mentioned before, I think there are others that are just as if not better qualified for the position and who are Democrats.
I also oppose the Hagel nomination on a number of other points. One is that, though he did apologize for his vindictive remarks towards Ambassador Hormel (offering only a tepid apology which did not seem particularly heartfelt), he does seem to have an issue with the rights of the LGBT community. From the New Yorker:
When Hagel served in the United States Senate, as a Republican from Nebraska, he consistently voted against gay rights—his record earned him a zero-per-cent rating (three times) from the Human Rights Campaign, the leading gay-rights lobby. Among other things, Hagel voted against extending basic employment nondiscrimination protections and the federal hate-crimes law to cover gay Americans.
As a Jewish American - I also have issues with this nomination. Hagels commentary on the "Jewish Lobby" is frankly DISGUSTING. I don't know where he really stands on Israel as I don't trust the screeching racist dingbats on the Right on anything they say and I understand that he said in 2008 that he felt Israel's character as a "Jewish Nation" was not negotiable. But, that is honestly not that much of an issue to me as the Sec. Def. really doesn't have shit to do with our policy towards Israel and as Peter Beinart commented on "Stand Up! with Pete Dominick" today, (Paraphrasing) "Hagel is certainly NOT the most Anti-Israel Sec. Def. we have ever had... George Marshall and Casper Weinberger were far harder line there".
Finally, I have to say I have issues with this: Hagel has a rating of 84 (reaching into the high 90's during the Bush Admin.) with the American Conservative Union and he received constant high grades from the American Taxpayers Union - I mean... COME ON! That is NOT what I voted for when I voted for President Obama. Someone who is that high on these lists is certainly no one that I could support.
I have to say, that this nomination SHOULD be opposed by liberals and progressives. Why in the world President Obama would nominate ANYONE who has been a staunch conservative is beyond me. I didn't vote for the man to put Republicans/Conservatives anywhere near the White House and inviting them into his cabinet just doesn't sit right here. There are others that would do a great job and who could and should have been considered. And though I do in the end feel that this won't amount to anything, I think the President is making a mistake here and I do think it is important to let him know that it is not necessary or acceptable for him to promote conservatives.