Chuck Hagel is the name most often mentioned to be Secretary of Defense in the second Obama administration. While Obama is a Democrat, Hagel is a Republican. Chuck Hagel served in Vietnam, like John Kerry did, in the midst of the actual fighting. He returned from that war to serve in public office. He is nobody's east coast limousine liberal. Hagel's roots are not in Hollywood or San Francisco. He is, in fact, a Republican from what was once called the Heartland of America. He was a United States senator and, if he should be nominated and then confirmed, he will be the American Secretary of Defense. He's not French. He's not English. He's not from Israel. He's an American.
From any objective viewpoint Chuck Hagel's qualifications for this job are more than adequate. It doesn't take much to say he would be an outstanding choice. And yet, as we see so automatically in our politics, there is always someone who objects -- to anyone nominated for anything. There is always somebody raising a red flag against a potential nominee for high office. What's the "problem" with Chuck Hagel? The New York Times reports that unnamed "critics" have a beef with Hagel over his support for Israel. The complaint of these still anonymous "critics" -- men or women who have yet to muster the courage to stand up in public and make their case against Hagel themselves -- stems from a statement Chuck Hagel made. In 2006 Hagel was quoted saying: "I'm a United States senator," he said, "not an Israeli senator." He went on to say, "My first interest is I take an oath of office to the Constitution of the United States. Not to a president. Not to a party. Not to Israel." Is there something wrong with that, something un-American, something disqualifying for public service to the United States?
Can it be that a potential nominee to be the American Secretary of Defense -- a job that involves overseeing the military of the United States in furtherance of American national interests -- must pledge his allegiance not only to his native country, but also to a foreign entity, the State of Israel? Israel is not a part of our Union. Perhaps more important, the United States and Israel do not have a mutual defense treaty. Israel is not a member of NATO. Yet, there are some, quite a few in fact, who would correctly point out that Israel has more Congressional House support than does our own president and more senators too. Why else would it be at all controversial for U.S. Senator Hagel to say he was "not an Israeli senator"?
Before we find ourselves in the media with Chuck Hagel being "swift-boated" for calling the Israeli lobby the "Jewish lobby" (it isn't?) and before Hagel becomes the white man's Susan Rice -- proof that the right-wing can be just as outrageous and equally unfair to a white man as they are to a black woman -- can we take a deep breath and come to a mutual understanding that the reelected president of the United States ought to be able to nominate a distinguished former Republican senator, a man who possesses all the outward qualities any Secretary of Defense should have, without making his fealty to a foreign government the litmus test for confirmation?
Aren't we still the United States of America and isn't the Barack Obama administration in its second term forming a cabinet for the government of the United States -- and only the United States?