William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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CHUCK – AT 11:55 A.M. ET:  It's now widely assumed that President Obama, taking his inspiration from suicide missions of the past, will nominate the eccentric and highly controversial Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense, replacing Leon Panetta.  Hagel has been widely endorsed by a variety of discredited members of the foreign-policy establishment, and by renowned bigot and former Republican Pat Buchanan.  He has also won the valued endorsement of Trita Parsi, an apologist for the Iranian regime.  You can tell a man by his friends.

It isn't a done deal, but almost done.  Bill Kristol has written that there's really no case for Hagel, and, indeed, his partisans don't exactly present a compelling argument for his selection.  Remarkably, to the best of my knowledge, Hagel has not won the endorsement of a single senator, or any of those he served with in the Senate years ago.  That is not a good sign.

Hagel's problem is sometimes called in Washington the "drip-drip-drip" problem.  Every day something else negative comes out about him, from his bizarre refusal to back strong sanctions against Iran, to his unseemly assaults on an openly gay candidate for an ambassadorship, to his apparent visceral dislike of Israel, to his unquenchable thirst to cut the defense budget, and to his overall contempt for America's role in the world.  What a guy!

The latest revelation is a Hagel comment that the war in Iraq was fought for oil.  One can have honorable disagreements with our decision to enter Iraq, but only a loony conspiracy theorist believes the war was fought for oil.  That is the standard charge of groups like Code Pink, and the other old red groups.  That Hagel would endorse that line shows that he is, as a Washington Post editorial opposing his selection said, a member of a fringe.  As secretary, he will have to work with thousands of Iraq veterans, some of them wounded.  Will he tell them they fought for oil?  As experts at the time of the invasion of Iraq said, it would be cheaper just to buy the oil outright.  And, in fact, we didn't get any oil out of Iraq anyway.

From the Weekly Standard: 

In a post yesterday waxing enthusiastic about Chuck Hagel as defense secretary, Michael Moore called attention to a statement of Hagel that I don't believe had been previously much noted. Here it is, from September 2007:

"People say we're not fighting for oil. Of course we are," said the Republican Senator from Nebraska Chuck Hagel to law students of Catholic University last September. "They talk about America's national interest. What the hell do you think they're talking about? We're not there for figs."

This rounds out a Hagelian worldview—but I also wonder if it could be the straw that breaks the back of Hagel's chances. It's true that senators have been notified in the last few days that Hagel is the likely choice. But the latest AP story has the Obama administration keeping the door open for the president to go in a different direction: "White House aides said the president has not made a final decision on either post and won't until he returns from Hawaii, where he is vacationing with his family. Obama is due back in Washington Sunday morning." Now, when Obama returns, he'll have to come to grips with the Hagel war-for-oil statement.

After all, this vulgar and disgusting charge has always been out of even the anti-war mainstream. It's something President Obama, an opponent of the Iraq war, has never (to my knowledge) said. Obama thought the war a mistake for various reasons. But he never bought in to the far-left trope that it was, secretly, a war for oil.

What's more, isn't Hagel’s statement a direct attack on the motives and honesty of those senators who supported the war—including Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry? Indeed, what does it say about Chuck Hagel, who voted to authorize the war in October 2002? He knew it was a war for oil, didn't say so at the time, but voted for it anyway? And then, a few years later, at the height of the fighting by American soldiers in Iraq, he proclaims with false braggadocio the alleged truth that it's all just a war for oil?

Is President Obama really going to nominate this man as secretary of defense?

COMMENT:  Says a great deal about Obama, doesn't it?

January 5, 2012