On Jan. 8, The Wall Street Journal published a tableau of quotable quotes from Chuck Hagel, President Obama's controversial choice to be Secretary of Defense.
The ensemble is breathtaking, from the Iraq War ("this misstep will play out to be the most dangerous and costly foreign policy debacle in our nation's history"); to the American approach to negotiating with Iran (you don't treat your opposite number like a little child, telling him to leave the kitchen table and go upstairs to bed); to the inadvisability of a military attack on Iran, etc. etc.
This habit of Mr. Hagel of telling it like it is, is enough, in the prevailing group-think of the American establishment, to have him labeled as a maverick, which indeed has been the case.
Referring to Capitol Hill, Hagel said the following to Aaron David Miller, author of The Much Too Promised Land: "The political reality is that... the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here. And... I have always argued against some of the dumb things they do because I don't think it is in the interest of Israel."
On Jan. 8, a phalanx of leading figures of the past in the American national security establishment sent a letter to The Washington Post in support of Hagel. The signatories included Tom Pickering, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, Frank Carlucci, etc.
The liberal think-tank J Street, which sets itself as a counterpoise to AIPAC (the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee) issued a statement on Jan. 7 in support of Hagel, under the lighthearted rubric of "smear a bagel but not Chuck Hagel."
Does all this represent a crack in the wall of intimidation, to use the word of Mr. Hagel to Mr. Miller? Will the message get through to Benjamin Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman, et al to stop interfering in the American political process? Doubtful. But it may be the beginning of something.