In the Arena

Kerry, Absolutely. But What About Hagel?

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John Kerry will make a fine Secretary of State. He knows the world, and is easy in it. But I’m worried about the Obama Administration hanging Chuck Hagel–Kerry’s good friend and fellow Vietnam veteran–out to dry.

Back in the 1990s, I found myself very much attracted to and impressed by the Vietnam veterans serving in the U.S. Senate: John Kerry, Bob Kerrey, Chuck Hagel, Max Cleland, Chuck Robb and yes, John McCain. They worked together, across party lines, and made it possible for the U.S. to finally resume diploatic relations with Vietnam, despite opposition from right-wing veterans groups. They put the lie to the phony Rambo notion that there were American prisoners of war still being held by the Vietnamese (the fact that those black POW flags still fly in many public places, including ballparks, is lingering testimony to the cruel ignorance–and often greed–that enabled POW-hunters to fleece grieving families).

These were serious men, good men. They had a real bond. They were a model for how the Senate should work–often disagreeing on matters of substance, but always recognizing that the experience they’d shared in the service of their country was far more important than any political disagreements they might have. I expect the next generation of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans will have a similar, intelligent and moderate influence on our politics, too.

But I digress: It’s good that the Obama Administration nominated Kerry, but it came at the cost of a scurrilous campaign against our United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice. That Rice was allowed to be attacked for so long, without being nominated, was cruel and Obama’s ultimate retreat gave succor to his Administration’s enemies which now, sadly, include John McCain.

The same thing is happening with Chuck Hagel. The incredibly high-minded patriots of the neoconservative cult think Hagel would be bad for Israel. Not bad for America, per say; not bad for the civilian leadership of our military; but bad for an ally, Israel, that this Administration has strongly supported, and cooperated with in covert counter-intelligence efforts against Iran, with occasional–worthy–caveats. Hagel doesn’t, for example, want to go to war with Iran. He has spoken out against Israel’s continuing, illegal expansion of settlements. His opponents tend to describe people who take such positions as anti-Israel. Note: not anti-American, but anti-Israel (although I could argue that those who don’t take those positions are lethal to the long-term existence of a Jewish state). And now, in their typically high-minded fashion, the neoconservatives are planning to run negative ads against Hagel, even though he hasn’t even been nominated.

I think the President has a responsibility here–to make a decision fast. It may be that Obama hasn’t made up his mind yet (in which case, the Administration shouldn’t have leaked his name). There are other fine candidates, like Deputy Secretary Ash Carter and defense intellectual Michelle Flournoy. Hagel is a good choice, too; he would the first Vietnam veteran to serve as Secretary of Defense. But the current state of play–Hagel twisting in the wind, his reputation slimed by such flamingly patriotic individuals as Bill Kristol and the saintly bloggers at Commentary–is unfair and not very classy. It is the exact opposite of what a nomination process should look like.

36 comments
Whatanotion
Whatanotion

Wouldn't it be easy enough for Kerry to assign Hagel to do some of the lifting that the country would benefit from?  Let the juveniles play with their exaggerated emotions and vacuous minds.  

donnaknox
donnaknox

Though most people largely associate the so-called Last Known Alive issue with the Vietnam War, the point not addressed in this post is the fact that thousands of American servicemen went missing during the Korean War and were never accounted for. 

As the daughter of an Air Force navigator who disappeared in North Korea under suspicious circumstances and without explanation, I have spent decades gathering intelligence and other evidence that American servicemen were taken from the Korean Theater to the Soviet Union and not returned. Along with hundreds of other family members, I have worked with the White House, the State Department, the Department of Defense and members of Congress since the early 1990's when then-Soviet President Boris Yeltsin admitted the Soviets had taken and held Americans for various kinds of exploitation.

This issue is both disturbing and complex and cannot be dismissed as the concoction of a handful of misguided individuals. As a journalist, Mr. Klein should investigate the wealth of information that would inform him about the POW/MIA accounting issue. He would do a service to his readership and to American servicemen and women, past and present, if he would educate himself about the issue and assist families and veterans in our effort to find answers that have eluded us for far too long. 

Donna Knox, Past President and Current Member/Board of Directors Coalition of Families of Korean & Cold War POW/MIAs <www.coalitionoffamilies.org>


JoeKidd
JoeKidd

Kerry and his wife were dining with Assad about a year before he condemned Assad's regime. He was going on and on about how Assad and Syria were a stabilizing influence in the region.


Was he just clueless about Assad, or what?

kudazachem
kudazachem

@lrozen Joe has only one subject to write about: bashing Israel. But that, apparently, delivers adequate income.

outmilitary
outmilitary

In 1999, Hagel told the New York Times when describing his enthusiastic support of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – the discriminatory policy that banned gays and lesbians from serving in the military:

“The armed forces aren’t some social experiment.”

While no Sec Def nominee will pass every test, LGB(T) service members should take pause and at least ask the question: Does Chuck Hagel have an aversion to my sexuality?

MarkSauter
MarkSauter

Mr. Klein: You have political influence, unlike the families of America's PoWs, and so it's incumbent you to do your research on subjects you cover, in this case the POW issue. Far from finding the Vietnam issue "phony," Sen. Kerry's investigation concluded: "We acknowledge that there is no proof that U.S. POWs survived, but neither is there proof that all of those who did not return had died. There is evidence, moreover, that indicates the possibility of survival, at least for a small number, after Operation Homecoming…” In addition, the POW flag stands for the missing of all wars, including Americans kept by the communists after Korea, which declassified documents now make clear happened. Only this year has a report surfaced that the Air Force Chief of Staff asked the CIA for covert action to recover them a year after the war. Former Soviets officers have now admitted shipping some US pilots to Russia. See www.koreanconfidential.com and www.kpows.com

superlogi
superlogi

Yes, easy and very, very flexible.  With regard to Hagel, if downsizing our military so it becomes of even less importance than it already is, is what you want, he'd be a good choice as well.

Old-Sodier
Old-Sodier

If Hagel has a gut to speak out his mind about "Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people here," then all Americian ppl should stand behind him and support him for this job.

This is a great country and we should do whatever we think it's right for it NOT for Israel. Those who are opposed are unAmerican and I think they should be relocated to Israel and live.

YngwieFM
YngwieFM

I would rather see a non white male in either role here, but considering that it's starting to look like we might go another decade at least before we see a white male President, I can live with it.

lynnpowmia
lynnpowmia

In this article, Mr. Klein demonstrates his complete lack of knowledge on the issue of Prisoners of War and Missing in Action from the Vietnam War. In 1993, Senator John Kerry, as Chairperson of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs signed the committee’s final report, which stated; "In 1976, the Montgomery Committee concluded that because there was no evidence that missing Americans had survived, they must be dead....This Committee has uncovered evidence that precludes it from taking the same view. We acknowledge that there is no proof that U.S. POWs survived, but neither is there proof that all of those who did not return had died. There is evidence, moreover, that indicates the possibility of survival, at least for a small number, after Operation Homecoming…”

The possibility of survival, at least for a small number, after Operation Homecoming, that is a powerful statement. It is for this “small number” that we continue to press for answers on the fate of men John Kerry and his committee recognized as possible survivors. This is the reason the POW/MIA flag still flies.
Lynn O’Shea
Director of Research
National Alliance of Families
For the Return of America’s Missing Servicemen

JeanPierreKatz
JeanPierreKatz

Not all middle aged White Anglo Saxon Protestant men are bigots.

But Chuck Hagel is a bigot despite his very late and self serving apology.

— a finalist for the post of secretary of defense in Obama's second term — once opposed a nominee to be U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg because he was "openly aggressively gay."

“Ambassadorial posts are sensitive," Hagel told to the Omaha World-Herald in 1998, opposing the nomination of philanthropist James Hormel. "They are representing America," he said. "They are representing our lifestyle, our values, our standards. And I think it is an inhibiting factor to be gay — openly aggressively gay like Mr. Hormel — to do an effective job."
Some LGBT rights groups are already criticizing the potential selection of Hagel to replace Leon Panetta.
Hagel was a longtime supporter of "don't ask, don't tell," which banned gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. In 1999, he told The New York Times, ''The U.S. armed forces aren't some social experiment.''
And between 2001 and 2006, Hagel received a score of zero from the Human Rights Council, with no votes on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a job discrimination bill, and the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which eventually was passed into law as part of the National Defense Authorization Act in 2009.

Aipac created a letter urging the Soviet Union to ease up on it's persecution of Soviet Jews.

That letter was signed by every Senator except Chuck Hagel.

Chuck Hagel believes that these letters are stupid.

Why would anyone agree that exerting pressure to save Soviet Jewry was stupid?

Criticizing the NAACP or LA RAZA as a Black lobby or a Latino lobby sending out stupid letters to Senators would be seen as bigoted by most people.

Speaking of the NAACP he has a 17 out of 100 rating from them.

That is because his bigotry extends to issues dealing with African-Americans. I believe that is why he considered Strom Thurmond to be such a great role model.


President Obama should appoint Flournoy and promote the diversity we expect today in America.

GildaMundson
GildaMundson

@kdrum @lrozen Don't you agree that Obama is hanging Chuck Hagel out to dry? It's even worse than the Susan Rice deal. Are they clueless?

TycheSD
TycheSD

This is the fault of the administration.  Their handling of the Susan Rice non-nomination and now the Chuck Hagel situation makes them look incompetent and sloppy.  Floating Chuck Hagel's name and then allowing him to be shot at by these people is shameful.  Either nominate him or drop him from consideration - and do it now.  An honorable man like Chuck Hagel doesn't deserve to be treated like this. 

If they back down from the Hagel nomination, they will look like they're allowing Republicans to make decisions on who President Obama should pick for his Cabinet!  Ridiculous! 

And, if they choose Michele Flournoy, they're just following orders from the neocon right.  That's who they want.  That's who Jennifer Rubin, Bill Kristol, and even Paul Wolfowitz want Obama to choose for Secretary of Defense.  Are those the people we want picking Cabinet members for the Obama administration?

DrinkerOfTheRye
DrinkerOfTheRye

Joe - take it easy on Obama, they just need to see who will shoot at their trial balloons. It's a necessary part of the deal to serve this President.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

I get it, it is the administration's fault that the republicans are attacking your buddy Hagel. 


Nice words about Senator Kerry, or as you have called him "Frenchy" ,though. 

TyPollard
TyPollard

"I expect the next generation of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans will have a similar, intelligent and moderate influence on our politics, too."


My understanding is that Fox news and Rush Limbaugh are the default TV and Radio settings with our Military. If this is true it doesn't bode well for the future of sane conservative vets in elected office. 

I hope I am wrong.


mightymeat
mightymeat

Diversity straight down the line, or diversity as in more tolerance for queers like you?

YngwieFM
YngwieFM

@JeanPierreKatz Would ANY Republican do better on the NAACP's rating? Frankly I see bucking AIPAC as a plus. We need more American leaders to do same, at least until such time that Israel comes to her senses.

Heian
Heian

@GildaMundson So you direct your ire at Obama, and not the people shamelessly bashing Hagel?


You either don't understand what's happening, or you have an extremely selective perception of who can be blamed for things.

jmac
jmac

@Paul,nnto Read it and weep.  You'd almost think Klein thinks Obama force feed the name Hagel to the press just to enjoy the Right eating him alive.     In the back of Klein's mind does he have a tiny suspicion that Hillary doesn't actually have a concussion?   

Heian
Heian

@TyPollard Plenty of vets in my family and friends who don't subscribe to the republican "truth trough". Though, repubs do beat their chest the hardest for military budget, which is just doing...great for us in the Fiscal Cliff situation, by the way.

DrinkerOfTheRye
DrinkerOfTheRye

@TyPollard Your not wrong, Fox is dominating the market share among the insane. Obama, as CiC, should right this wrong, and ban Fox as the default and eliminate it on base before it'a to late.

formerlyjames
formerlyjames

@TyPollard 

I agree that the Middle East era military is not the Viet Nam era military obviously as a result of elimination of the draft and full representation by all of American society.  I believe that the religious influence as part of the political shift to the right is part of the package.  I'm not so sure that many would make good congressional representatives.  Theres' probably more of a Tea Party affiliation and we have seen how productive that can be.

JoeKidd
JoeKidd

@YngwieFM @JeanPierreKatz 

Does "Israel coming to its senses" mean they should stop defending themselves from people sworn to kill them? Just asking, don't kill the messenger.

mightymeat
mightymeat

"plenty of vets in my family and friends who don't subscribe to the republican truth trough"

Sure there are Heian, sure there are... 

What's with this uncanny affinity liberals have for lying?

Heian
Heian

@DrinkerOfTheRye Obama wouldn't spit in the face of the First Amendment like that. Although, outside of a ban, he could push to reclassify the "news" - especially in the light of the incredibly embarrassing election night GOP antics on the station.

TyPollard
TyPollard

@kbanginmotown @TyPollard 

I think Joe Klein underestimates the toxic affect Fox and AM Radio have done to this country. My nephew told me when he enlisted that it was the only "news" allowed in the common areas. He was shocked but 5 years later he parrots Fox. Sad.

YngwieFM
YngwieFM

@JoeKidd @YngwieFM @JeanPierreKatz It means stop acting like a PUNK when it comes to the US. Israel has forgotten who is the vassal state and who runs things. But hey, maybe it's time we cut ties and let Israel stand on her own two feet for once.

JoeKidd
JoeKidd

@Heian @DrinkerOfTheRye 

Are you sure about that? He hasn't had much affinity for not spitting on other parts of The Constitution, why would he here?

YngwieFM
YngwieFM

@JoeKidd @TyPollard @kbanginmotown The media has been monopolized by an overwhelmingly conservative CORPORATE AMERICA. Trickle down economics? Failure. Deregulateion? Failure. Iraq War? Failure. Conservatives have been wrong on EVERY MAJOR POLICY for a decade. Policies gladly sold by the conservative Corporate Media......including Time.

JoeKidd
JoeKidd

@TyPollard @kbanginmotown 

The media has been monopolized by liberals for over 60-70 years, but Fox comes along in what? The late 90s, or early 2000s and somehow they have done something bad to this country? They are only giving equal time. Saying what you just said is like the saying "The Republican ideas have been shown to be wrong for many years" I see from many people around here, never stopping to acknowledge that the Democrats controlled Congress for many many years.