Former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel may no longer be the frontrunner to replace Leon Panetta as secretary of defense. When even Democratic senators – in particular, Chuck Schumer – were unwilling to endorse him on last week’s Sunday shows, attention turned this week to the other candidates on the president’s short list, Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and former undersecretary of defense for policy Michele Flournoy.
But Hagel is still garnering support, if not from his former Senate colleagues. Two-time independent presidential candidate Pat Buchanan endorsed Hagel’s nomination earlier this week. Among Hagel’s many qualifications, says Buchanan, are his views on Iran, and if the president himself decides against going to war, he’ll have to make the case regardless of whether he nominates Hagel:
If Obama does not want that war, he is going to have to defeat the war party. Throwing an old warrior like Chuck Hagel over the side to appease these wolves is not the way to begin this fight.
Nominate him, Mr. President. Let’s get it on.
Both Buchanan and Hagel have been accused of anti-Semitism: Hagel for his remark that the “Jewish lobby” wields too much influence on Capitol Hill and Buchanan for, among other things, his charge that the Gulf War was supported only by “the Israeli Defense Ministry and its amen corner in the United States.”
The tenor of Buchanan’s opposition to the Gulf War led Bill Buckley to do some serious thinking, which resulted in a book. His carefully worded conclusion: “I find it impossible to defend Pat Buchanan against the charge that what he did and said during the period under examination amounted to anti-Semitism, whatever it was that drove him to say and do it: most probably, an iconoclastic temperament.”
Whatever the case, given the uphill battle that Hagel will face if he is in fact nominated, this is probably one endorsement he could have lived without.