Hagel Derailed -- for Now
Obama’s dangerous foreign policy agenda suffers a setback.
Defying a furious White House and Senate Democrats, Senate Republicans successfully filibustered Chuck Hagel's nomination for Secretary of Defense. The tally was 58-40, with one “present” vote. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) switched his vote from “yes” to “no,” a procedural move that allows him to revisit Hagel's nomination after the Senate recess. The move was historic, in that a Cabinet Secretary has never been successfully filibustered before. Republicans claimed they will allow an up-or-down vote on Hagel only after they get more information about the debacle in Benghazi. For the moment, Obama's dangerous foreign policy agenda, personified by the Hagel nomination, has been slowed. But it will not be for long.
Republicans also want more information from Hagel himself. They blame Democrats for attempting to rush the vote, and the White House for failing to provide more information regarding compensation Hagel received for speeches he has made. Earlier this week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) argued that such records were necessary because Hagel may have given speeches, or received compensation, from “radical or extreme groups.” This allegation enraged Hagel supporters, who characterized it as “McCarthyite,” but Cruz didn't back down. “We saw with this nomination something truly extraordinary, which is the government of Iran formally and publicly praising the nomination of a Defense Secretary,” said Cruz on Tuesday. “I would suggest to you that to my knowledge that is unprecedented, to see a foreign nation like Iran publicly celebrating a nomination.”
As usual, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was far more conciliatory. “I think it's appropriate to wait until we come back,” he said, referring to the fact that the Senate will be on break until February 25. “I think there's plenty of time to have any further questions answered and I intend to vote for cloture then…He'd certainly get mine and a number of others.”
Before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid employed his familiar over-the-top rhetoric, claiming the nation would be without a Secretary of Defense should Hagel's nomination be delayed. “Republicans have been telling our troops, you can have a leader later,” Reid huffed, even as current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made it clear he would stay on until Hagel is confirmed. Reid further noted that Hagel has “answered exhaustive questions about his record.”
Not quite. On Tuesday, it was learned that Hagel did not include to Senate investigators two speeches he made regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict. His supporters in the Senate and the administration claimed those speeches were “informal,” and thus it was not required that he turn them over to the Senate Armed Services Committee. In fairness, one of those speeches, given before the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) on June 13, 2008, was hardly the “smoking gun” many on the right was hoping it would be. Yet it contained one disquieting element that dovetails quite nicely with a president who believes that American exceptionalism isn't particularly exceptional and that Islamic jihad is a jingoistic fantasy. According to Hagel, “there's not one religion, not one region of the world… that represents the most valued and real human dimensions more than any other…I don't find any one religion where people love their children more than the other religions, or whether they want peace more than other religions…I've never found that difference, whether you're Jewish, Muslim Buddhist, Christian.”
Perhaps Chuck has missed the copious amount of information that reveals the culture of hate embraced by Palestinians, including a TV character named Farfur, a Mickey Mouse look-alike “martyred” in the show's last episode, after being beaten to death by a Jew. Maybe he's never heard about Palestinian children being trained as suicide bombers. The content of the second speech, given at Georgetown University's Center for Contemporary Arab Studies on September 22, 2008, remains unavailable.
Hagel should be grateful the Senate Armed Services Committee only required “formal speeches” from 2008 onward. The Washington Free Beacon reveals an eye-witness account of a speech given by Hagel in 2007 at Rutgers University in New Jersey, while he was still a senator with presidential aspirations. According to Republican political consultant George Ajjan, a Hagel supporter, the Defense Secretary nominee contended that the State Department was controlled by Israel, saying it had “become adjunct to the Israeli Foreign Minister's office[.]” Ajjan also noted that Hagel “spoke enthusiastically about the talks on Iraqi stability that will be attended by all the stakeholders, including Iran, Syria, and the US sitting around the same table.”
Later yesterday, a prepared text of Hagel's remarks from that day was released. Astoundingly, Hagel doubled down on his fairly tale view of Iran, noting their supposed cooperation with the United States in Afghanistan:
Iran has cooperated with the United States on Afghanistan to help the Afghans establish a new government after the Taliban was ousted. Iran continues to invest heavily in the reconstruction of western Afghanistan.
On Afghanistan, the United States and Iran found common interests–defeating the Taliban and Islamic radicals, stabilizing Afghanistan, stopping the opium production and the flow of opium coming into Iran. From these common interests emerged common actions working toward a common purpose. It was in the interests of Iran to work with the U.S. in Afghanistan. It was not a matter of helping America or strengthening America's presence in Central Asia. It was a clear-eyed and self-serving action for Iran.
Furthermore, Hagel advocated “offering to re-open a consulate in Tehran…not formal diplomatic relations…but a Consulate…to help encourage and facilitate people-to-people exchange.” Much like the excerpt from 2008 above, such notions speak to the utter inaccuracy of Hagel's predictions, and a bizarrely out-of-touch worldview.
That worldview is further illuminated by Hagel's relationship with the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank he chairs. A report released Tuesday reveals that several foreign corporations funding the Atlantic Council have either attempted to violate, or have violated, American and European sanctions against Iran. One of those sponsors, Italian oil company Eni, was even “proud” of its cooperation with the fanatical regime. Another, Deutsche Bank, is being investigated by the U.S. for sanction violations. Hagel is a Deutsche Bank board member.
Since 2010, Hagel has also been on the board of the Chevron Corporation. That year the company signed a Joint Operation Agreement with Türkiye Petrolleri Anonim Ortaklığı (TPAO), Turkey's state oil company, for a Black Sea exploration license. More than ten percent of the Atlantic Council's sponsors are linked to Turkish energy entities and companies invested in the Turkish energy sector. They buy as much as 90 percent of Iran's natural gas exports. Turkey is also facilitating Iran's evasion of sanctions by allowing Tehran to convert oil revenues into gold, which, unlike Turkish currency, can be transported back to Iran. “Turkey is allowing Iran to access means to use the revenues from oil for whatever purposes Iran seeks,” said Emanuele Ottolenghi, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “The Turks so far have not been willing to do the things you'd expect them to do to squeeze Iran.”
Although Hagel now claims to support sanctions, provided they are multilateral, both he and the Atlantic Council have been critical of them in the past. And it is yet unclear whether Hagel was aware of the sanction-busting efforts of his corporate sponsors – which is why yesterday's vote delaying his nomination makes sense. “We really need more information, more disclosure, before we can know if Sen. Hagel did something wrong here,” said a congressional aide who has worked on Iranian sanction issues. “The obvious question for Sen. Hagel would be what did you know, when did you know it, and what did you do about it after you found out.”
That goes double for the other reason Republicans delayed this nomination, namely Benghazi. The administration has provided some information, noting that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton contacted Libyan President Mohamed Magariaf on Obama's behalf the day of the attack, and that Obama spoke to him on the September 12.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has been the most vociferous Republican with regard to demanding answers. “There seems to not be much interest to hold this president accountable for a national security breakdown that led to the first ambassador being killed in the line of duty in over 30 years,” Graham said. “No, the debate on Chuck Hagel is not over. It has not been serious. We don't have the information we need. And I'm going to fight the idea of jamming somebody through until we get answers about what the president did personally when it came to the Benghazi debacle.”
Graham further contended that Obama only spoke to the Libyan government “after everybody was dead,” suggesting that it was possible the president might have made a difference if he hadn't, as current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testified, left the entire operation up to him and Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey. Democrats and an utterly corrupt mainstream media have ignored the reality that Barack Obama not only showed no further concern at any point during the eight hours of fighting that cost four American their lives, but attended a fund-raiser in Las Vegas the following day.
Unfortunately, Republicans' newfound character may be a temporary aberration. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) was one of a number of Republican Senators who suggested that a cloture vote might not even be necessary after the recess. He even believed the White House would provide the requested information. “I think the legitimate information that's been asked for will come,” Corker said. “Some people may have asked for things that are over the top – I don't know that, by the way – but I think the legitimate requests will be answered.”
One is left to imagine what constitutes over-the-top with regard to a thoroughly inept nominee for Secretary of Defense, and massive disinformation campaign surrounding the deaths of four Americans in Libya. Harry Reid has scheduled another vote for February 26, during which he and his fellow Democrats expect Hagel to be confirmed.
For the next eleven days, Democrats and their media allies will whine about Republican obstructionism. Republicans need to spend their time reminding Americans of Hagel's utter lack of qualifications, as well as the mockery that the self-described “most transparent administration in history” has become. The families of four dead Americans, along with countless other Americans who put their lives on the line for this nation, deserve nothing less.
Arnold Ahlert is a columnist for FrontPage Magazine.