Monday, December 17, 2012
Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary - Bring it On!
Many in the American Jewish community are aghast to discover that President Obama is planning to appoint former Senator Chuck Hagel to serve as Defense Secretary. If you want the skinny on how Hagel has come to be known as one of the few ferociously anti-Israel senators in the past generation, Carl from Jerusalem at Israel Matzav provides it.
Meantime, all I can say is I don't understand how anyone can possibly be surprised. Shortly after word came out that Hagel is the frontrunner for the nomination, I read a quaint little blog post written by a conservative leaning commentator voicing her belief that Obama wouldn't want to risk his relations with Israel's supporters by appointing Hagel. But as Powerline pointed out today, this is the entire point of the nomination. Obama isn't stupid. He picks fights he thinks he can win. He hasn't always been right about those fights. He picked fights with Netanyahu thinking he could win, and he lost some of those.
But he is right to think he can win the Hagel fight. The Republican Senators aren't going to get into a fight with Obama about his DOD appointee, especially given that it's one of their fellow senators, even though many of them hate him. The Democrats are certainly not going to oppose him.
Obama wants to hurt Israel. He does not like Israel. He is appointing anti-Israel advisors and cabinet members not despite their anti-Israel positions, but because of them.
Some commentators said that Susan Rice would be bad because she was anti-Israel and they hoped that Obama would appoint someone pro-Israel. But John Kerry is no friend of Israel. And as far as I was concerned, we would have been better off with Rice on the job.
Unlike Kerry, Rice is politically inept. She walked into Sen. John McCain's office with the intention of convincing Sens. McCain, Lindsey Graham and Oympia Snowe that she was competent to serve as Secretary of State despite the fact that she deliberately misled the public on what happened at the Sept. 11 jihadist attack on the US consulate in Benghazi.
But she failed. In commenting on the meeting, all three senators said they were more concerned after speaking with Rice than they were before they did. That is, they said she was a political incompetent. Can there be any doubt that Sen. Kerry will be able to play the politics of Capitol Hill far more effectively than Rice?
And what reason does anyone have to believe that Assad's great defender will be any more supportive of Israel than Rice would have been? But with him in the driver's seat now, instead of having a political incompetent whom no one can stand serving as the spokesman for Obama's anti-Israel foreign policy, in Kerry we will have a competent, reasonably popular politician on the job.
It's time for people to realize the game has changed. Obama won.
Obama won with 70 percent of the Jewish vote despite the fact that his record in his first term was more hostile to Israel than any president since Jimmy Carter. No one can expect him now, after his victory, to feel even slightly constrained in his desire to weaken the US relationship with Israel.
So far, he has made clear that he feels no constraints whatsoever. Take the Palestinians at the UN for example. Obama enabled the Palestinians to get their non-member state status at the UN by failing to threaten to cut off US funding to the UN in retaliation for such a vote.
Both Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush issued such threats during their tenures in office and so prevented the motion from coming to a vote. Given that the Palestinians have had an automatic majority in the General Assembly since at least 1975, the only reason their status was only upgraded in 2012 is because until then, either the PLO didn't feel like raising the issue or the US threatened to cut off its financial support to the UN if such a motion passed. This year PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas said he wanted to have a vote and Obama responded by not issuing a threat to cut off UN funding. So the Palestinians got their vote and, as expected, it passed overwhelmingly.
Seeing the upgrade as a Palestinian move is a mistake. It was a joint Palestinian-American move.
And Obama made that move and no one balked. Indeed some New York Jews applauded it.
Let there be no doubt, Obama will get Hagel in at Defense. And Hagel will place Israel in his crosshairs.
The only way to foil Obama's ill intentions towards Israel even slightly is to be better at politics than he is. And he's awfully good.
Moreover, one of his strongest advantages is that Israel's supporters seem to have never gotten the memo. So here it is: Obama wants to fundamentally transform the US relationship with Israel.
He isn't playing by the old rules. He doesn't care about the so-called Israel lobby or the Jewish vote. As he sees it, to paraphrase Jim Baker, "F#&k the Jews, they voted for us anyway."
As strange as it may sound, I am slightly relieved by Hagel's appointment, and by my trust that Kerry will be a loyal mouthpiece of Obama's hostility. The more "in our faces" they are with their hostility, the smaller our ability to deny their hostility or pretend that we can continue to operate as if nothing has changed. As we face four more years of Obama - and four years of Obama unplugged -- the most urgent order of business for Israelis is to stop deluding ourselves in thinking that under Obama the US can be trusted.
So welcome aboard Secretary Hagel. Bring it on.