Think Tank President Rebukes Senior Fellow’s Claims That Chuck Hagel Is Anti-Semitic

Elliott Abrams

Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) president Richard Haass said on ABC’s This Week on Sunday that ad hominem attacks on Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s choice as the next Defense Secretary, are “over the line.”

In an effort to derail Hagel’s nomination, the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol and the neocons have been trying to convince the public that Hagel is an “anti-Semite.” CFR Senior Fellow Elliott Abrams, a former Bush administration official who was convicted of charges related to the Iran-Contra scandal, claimed last week that Hagel “seems to have some kind of problem with Jews.” But Haass, Abrams’ boss, rebuked those charges and the tactics Abrams and his neocon allies are using:

HAASS: The only thing that should be relevant George I would say are his ability to run the Pentagon and his views on policy … Where I think people are going over the line is with an hominem attacks, questioning for example whether he is an anti-Semite. I’ve known Chuck Hagel for more than 20 years for what it’s worth, I think that’s proposterous. I also don’t think that has a place in the public space. We often ask, why aren’t public debates better, why aren’t sometimes the best people going into public life, but this is one of the reasons. … I really don’t think there is a legitimate place in American political life for ad hominem attacks. These are loaded words that are being cast about and I think they’re simply beyond the pale.

Watch the clip:

A Council spokesperson last week backed away from Abrams’ baseless attacks on Hagel, saying they don’t represent the views of the Council on Foreign Relations. But Haass has now formally criticized Abrams’ attacks.

Critics of Abrams for his anti-Hagel comments are now calling on him to apologize. “I hope that Abrams rethinks his position and apologizes to Hagel and welcomes a genuine debate, Council on Foreign Relations-style, about their policy differences,” Atlantic editor-at-large and New America Foundation Senior Fellow Steve Clemons said this week.