The rumored, possible appointment of Chuck Hagel as secretary of Defense has set off a strange proxy war in Washington between neoconservatives and haters of neoconservatives, mainly because the two sides have been itching to fight each other and haven’t had any good grist for fighting since Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer passed from the scene. Hawks are casting Hagel as borderline anti-Semitic, while doves like Peter Beinart portray him as “the New Eisenhower” (because he’s a dovish veteran — it’s a bit like calling a politician who wants toexpand public universities “the New Lincoln”).
The most damning charge against Hagel is that he railed against what he called “the Jewish Lobby.” I’d say opposing the Israel lobby is perfectly fine, calling it “the Jewish lobby” is somewhat offensive — it does have Gentiles, you know — while falling short of outright disqualifying.
But that hasn’t proven sufficiently damaging. Comically, the campaign to discredit Hagel, in an attempt to create a constant drumbeat of scandal or scandal-esque news, is casting him as … a Republican. One story came out that Hagel opposed the nomination of James Hormel, who is gay, as ambassador to Luxembourg, because he was “openly aggressively gay.” (Today Hagel apologized; Hormel has not accepted.) Today’s bombshell is that Hagel praised Strom Thurmond, an ex-segregationist, as a “role model.”