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Monday, February 11, 2013

The Middle East Media Sampler 2/11/13: Obama Doesn't Want Chuck Hagel For His Mind

From +David Gerstman:

The last refuge of Hagel supporters 

In a criticism of the President's nomination of Sen. Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense, the Wall Street Journal observes (h/t Ed Lasky):
 It's clear that Mr. Obama chose Mr. Hagel not because he wants a strong and knowledgeable adviser but because he wants a cipher who will take orders from the White House. Mr. Hagel all but admitted this at last month's hearing when West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin noted that "you're going to be basically following policy, not making policy." Mr. Hagel replied, "I won't be in a policy-making position." 
 This would fit well with recent revelations about President Obama's decision making regarding Syria. A Washington Post editorial observed:

WE NOW know that President Obama’s national security team overwhelmingly supported providing arms to the rebels in Syria. On Thursday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told a Senate committee that he and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, backed a plan that would have vetted, trained and armed selected opposition groups, which have been pleading for such U.S. support for more than a year. According to the New York Times, the strategy was developed by former CIA director David H. Petraeus and supported by former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton. 
 Whether arming the rebels was necessarily the correct policy is unknowable. What is clear is that President Obama overruled every one of his top foreign policy advisers. What would follow is that the President isn't looking for a team of rivals, but a team of rubber stampers. This is a point made by scholars Barry Rubin and Fouad Ajami. If Hagel's recent performance before the Senate hadn't discouraged any of his supporters, I'm guessing that the latest revelation by Ben Shapiro at Breitbart won't change their minds either:
On Thursday, Senate sources told Breitbart News exclusively that they have been informed that one of the reasons that President Barack Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, has not turned over requested documents on his sources of foreign funding is that one of the names listed is a group purportedly called “Friends of Hamas.” 
Remember the supporters of Hagel who argued that his criticism of Israel is what made him a truer friend of Israel than those who openly supported Israel? Well if Shapiro's scoop pans out, what would they say then? Wouldn't it be an indictment of Hagel that he was cozy with a terrorist group that hates America? Maybe these same Hagel supporters would still support him, but I'd hope that they'd at least have the courtesy to shed the pretense that Hagel is a true friend of Israel. 

Finally, the failure of Hagel to disclose his financial records recalls another controversial Obama nomination. Chas Freeman withdrew from consideration to head the National Intelligence Council before he released his financial records. This suggested very strongly that Freeman knew that his financial dealings would bring negative attention to his activites. Hagel's similar reticence suggests that he, too, doesn't think that his activities would be viewed favorably by the Senate.


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