In the wake of President Obama’s choice of Chuck Hagel as the next Secretary of Defense, opposition to the nomination appears to be dissipating, reduced to a core of right-wing activists arrayed around neoconservative don Bill Kristol. The Washington Post’s editors, whose earlier opposition to the nomination was reflective of their own neoconservative-leaning approach to foreign policy, have now taken a more accommodating tack, writing in today’s paper that there’s “nothing disqualifying” about Hagel or Obama’s nominees for Secretary of State, John Kerry, and CIA Director, John Brennan. The confirmation hearings for the three nominees, the Post writes today, “could provide a needed debate on the direction of U.S. national security policy — provided that senators can avoid distractions”:
Chief among the distractions would be charges that Mr. Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, is hostile to Israel or even anti-Semitic. There is no serious evidence to support either allegation.
The real issues raised by Mr. Hagel’s nomination are his past support for a quick-as-possible withdrawal from Afghanistan, a further downsizing of what he described as a “bloated” Pentagon and his resistance to foreign interventions.
On the latter point, I completely agree. The upcoming confirmation hearings provide an important opportunity to have a serious discussion on the direction of U.S. foreign policy, and I’m looking forward to hearing Hagel explain how his views on these issues are broadly consistent with those of the president, the American people, and the U.S. military leadership, if not the Post’s editors.
As to the issue of “distractions,” while it’s nice to see the Post admit what I think has been obvious from the start — the “anti-Israel, anti-Semite” charge against Hagel is baseless — it’s worth noting that this charge has appeared repeatedly under the Washington Post’s banner, indeed on its own op-ed page as recently as two days ago, courtesy of (who else?) neocon blogger Jennifer Rubin.
We’ve noted before that, when it comes to trafficking false claims, Rubin seems to enjoy a special dispensation from the Post’s editors. The question now is whether, having acknowledged that there’s no evidence to support the claims that Chuck Hagel is either hostile to Israel or anti-Semitic, they’ll leave Rubin to continue making those claims.