Quite a Show Of Cowardice By Hagel
Although he is not my favorite president, John Kennedy is remembered most in my mind for his book "Profiles in Courage." It was read by every schoolchild in the early 1960s to remind us that in the midst of political adversity, there were politicians who put honor and statesmanship ahead of another appointment or re-election victory.
There was the story of an elderly Sam Houston opposing Texas secession, an anti-slavery Daniel Webster compromising with Southern lawmakers to try to save the Union, and Sen. Edmund Ross voting to acquit President Andrew Johnson on impeachment charges created because he treated the South in the manner Lincoln promised.
If JFK remained with us, I believe that his attention would be drawn to Chuck Hagel. But Kennedy's new book would be titled "Profiles in Cowardice."
During the Senate hearings on his nomination for secretary of defense, the confrontation was epic. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina asked Hagel about his remark that the Senate was intimidated by the "Jewish lobby." Hagel had said that this caused the country to do stupid things.
Graham then challenged Hagel to name one senator intimidated by the Israel lobby and one stupid thing that the United States did in response to this intimidation.
Now, Hagel could have said that Graham himself was a part of that "evil lobby." He could have criticized the failure of America to oppose the expansion of Israeli settlements to be the result of that intimidation.
I would have certainly taken issue with this opinion. But I would have had respect for Hagel, just as I do for President Obama. I almost never agree with the president, but I believe that he is both honest in his convictions and ready to "take the heat" for his liberalism.
Yet Hagel proved himself a coward. He told Graham that he regretted his statement. He could think of no senator ever intimidated by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). He could think of no mistake made by the United States in response to the pressure of that lobby.
Of, course, Hagel was lying. He neither said what he meant nor meant what he said. In fact, it was Hagel himself who proved to be the most intimidated, if not by AIPAC, then by his perception of AIPAC. He was so concerned that he chose to deny his convictions and look like a groundhog too scared to come out of his hole for fear that the weather might change.
But the saga of Chuck Hagel goes beyond Israel, Lindsey Graham or AIPAC. These hearings are not simply watched by policy "wonks" with no social life beyond CNN and Fox. The hearings are being analyzed by the leaders of Iran and North Korea. They see in the next secretary of defense a coward who puts his own appointment above his character and his self-respect.
That internal weakness will be a feature that the remaining member of the "axis of evil" will count upon as it develops its next generation of nuclear weapons and its first generation of ballistic missiles.
Within the next few years, there may be a standoff between the United States and its "axis' enemies similar to the standoff in the late 1930s between Hitler and Chamberlain in Europe and between Japan and the United States in the Pacific. Hagel might give false promises of "peace in our time" because he is internally weak.
We would then require new leaders like Churchill and Roosevelt's Republican war secretary, Henry Stimson, to rescue us from Obama's Republican, Chuck Hagel. The cost of this lack of character could result in the death of many brave soldiers.
In these times, memories turn to the Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork. Bork was as beyond the mainstream conservatively as Hagel is liberally.
But Bork decided to tell the Senate truth about his convictions. He elected to maintain his own self-respect rather than cower to a Senate ready to reward him for abandoning his character.
Bork told the truth and was not confirmed. But, to this day, at least some of us remember him for his courage.
Unlike Hagel, no one will ever call Bork a coward. As for Hagel, confirmed or not, cowardice will be his legacy.
Robert M. Levy is chairman of the Moore County Republican Party. Contact him at Law52@prodigy.net.
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