THE BLOG
12/19/2012 04:01 pm ET | Updated Feb 18, 2013

Why The Right Is Smearing Chuck Hagel, and Why It Must End

The neocons are at it again. Bill Kristol doesn't like that Vietnam Veteran and potential Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has a more reasoned view on the use of force than Kristol and other neocons.

So what does Kristol do? He tosses out the outrageous, false attack that Chuck Hagel is anti-Israel. By extension, of course, it's implied that he must be anti-Semitic.

I won't dignify Kristol's smears by repeating what he wrote in The Weekly Standard. But if you're interested in reading about them, and a well-written take-down of them, I suggest reading Dana Milbank's excellent piece at the Washington Post, here.

What I will say is this: Kristol is offensive, wrong, and this kind of swiftboating must stop, now.

I know Chuck Hagel, and consider him a friend. I'm also Jewish.

I know who Senator Hagel is, and what he stands for. I also know anti-Semitism when I see it, and for William Kristol to use this line of attack -- crying wolf -- against Senator Hagel seriously undermines real anti-Semitism when it arises.

If William Kristol wants to have a real debate on the real issues, let's have it. Let's have a debate on the neocon military policy of preemptive war, interventionism and nation-building versus a more reasoned approach, with use of the military as a last resort.

That's a debate we'd win. It's a debate Chuck Hagel would win, should he be nominated to be Secretary of Defense. And that's why neocons like William Kristol will do anything to keep that debate from happening.

It is up to the media to stand up to these smears and call them what they are, and reject them. This doesn't mean they have to support Senator Hagel's nomination, should it happen. But it does mean they should call a spade a spade, and not allow right-wing noisemakers to rob the country of the chance to fully examine and consider a man for Secretary of Defense, who is eminently qualified for the job -- especially because he is a combat veteran.

More importantly, it's now up to us to reject these kinds of smears -- and not allow a real debate of two very different views of American use-of-force to be skirted by outrageous and false attacks. If we don't stand up to it now -- if we don't show that it won't be that easy for the neocons to avoid a real debate -- then on what issue or nominee will they not try this tactic? What debates will they be able to avoid, by simply tossing out a grotesque distortion of a person's words and actions?

The answer, of course, is there is no stopping them, once they get started. That's why these kinds of attacks must stop -- now.