Hagel Faces Down the Neo-Cons

It’s terrific news that the neo-conservatives like Bill Kristol and Elliott Abrams, who have been peddling the slander that Chuck Hagel is an anti-Semite, got no traction with leading pro-Israel senators. The announcement by New York senator Chuck Schumer and California senator Barbara Boxer that they will support Hagel signals that the mainstream Jewish community wasn’t buying it, and even that the Israel lobby is split.

Well placed sources tell me that the full-page ad in yesterday’s New York Times created by Kristol and company, under the name “The Emergency Committee for Israel” actually backfired. In the ad, Alan Dershowitz is quoted as saying that Hagel speaks the language of “the bigots of Tehran.” The ad evidently failed to sway leading legislators. The Committee’s entire board is Kristol, Gary Bauer (a prominent rightwing Christian supporter of Israel) and Rachel Abrams, a neo-con married to Elliott Abrams.

Schumer’s support now makes it safe for other Democrats and moderate Republicans—both of them—to support the former Nebraska senator. Hagel now looks like a good bet to be confirmed. I mean that literally. Intrade, the Internet gambling site that allows bets on political events was places his chances at 95 percent.  

Hagel’s progress also speaks well of President Obama’s leadership in two respects. First, the Hagel nomination must have been vetted very carefully with mainstream groups that care about the Middle East, as well as key senators before Obama went public.

Second, though Hagel is no anti-Semite, he is proudly averse to needless military adventures like the invasion of Iraq, and open to new initiatives to promote Middle East peace. Obama knew exactly whom he was getting. The fact that the President was willing to take a political risk to advance a more open military and national security policy bodes well for his second term.

Look for Republicans to try to block this nomination, and to fail.

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