Four former national security advisers in a letter to the editor in the Washington Post published on Tuesday denounced what New York TImes columnist Tom Friedman described as “disgusting” attacks on former Republican senator Chuck Hagel and praised Hagel’s prior service to the United States.
Responding to a Dec. 21 Post story on Hagel’s potential nomination to be Secretary of Defense, the former national security advisers, James L. Jones (Obama), Brent Scowcroft (Ford, H.W Bush) , Zbigniew Brzezinski (Carter) and Frank Carlucci (Reagan), said they “strongly object…to the attacks on the character of former senator Chuck Hagel,” whom they called “a man of unshakable integrity and wisdom who has served his country in the most distinguished manner in peace and war”:
He is a rare example of a public servant willing to rise above partisan politics to advance the interests of the United States and its friends and allies. Moreover, it is damaging to the quality of our civic discourse for prospective Cabinet nominees to be subjected to such vicious attacks on their character before an official nomination.
This type of behavior will only discourage future prospective nominees from public service when our country badly needs quality leadership in government.
Scowcroft and 10 other retired senior U.S. military officials, including William Fallon and Anthony Zinni, signed a letter last week saying that Hagel would be “a strong leader at the Pentagon” and that he’s “eminently qualified for the job.” That letter came on the heals of one just days prior in which nine former U.S. Ambassadors, including Ryan Crocker, signed a letter praising Hagel’s qualifications for the top Pentagon job.
The high-level support for Hagel comes after the “neocon smear machine” recently began a campaign to tar Hagel as an anti-Semite and anti-Israel and not sufficiently militaristic toward Iran after news reports that he is President Obama’s top choice to succeed Leon Panetta.
Friedman defended Hagel against the backlash in his Times column today. “I think he would make a fine secretary of defense — precisely because some of his views are not ‘mainstream.'”
In its Dec. 21 article on Hagel, the Post quoted Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) calling the former Nebraska Republican an “excellent candidate” for Pentagon chief. “Most senators who served with Chuck would be favorable to his nomination,” Lugar said.
The Atlantic’s Robert Wright notes today that Hagel has now drawn wide ranging support from across the ideological spectrum. “[B]y and large this fight is between some neocons (plus a few reliable supporters) and everybody else,” he writes, adding: “So it’s in Obama’s hands. There’s a lot at stake here — not just whether McCarthyite smears will be allowed to succeed, but whether Obama, in the wake of the Susan Rice episode, will now get a reputation as someone who caves whenever he faces resistance.”
(Photo: Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski – Getty)