This is the week that the Senate Armed Services Committee should approve Chuck Hagel’s confirmation as Secretary of Defense. Chairman Levin (D-Mich) has shown more patience with Republican grandstanding and delay than is required. He has gone the extra step and in every way the Senate Committee Republicans are obstructers whose past actions will have the effect of weakening our national security.
The Political Context, Promoting the Big Lie
For the first time since before the Vietnam War, Republicans are on the short end of the stick politically on national security issues. President Obama’s success in Iraq and Afghanistan have played well with the American people. The Senate Republican bitter enders are either refighting the Iraq War, avoiding responsibility for their fundamental mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan and desperately trying to latch on to Ben Ghazi as a crutch to regain political domination on national security matters. None of it is working.
But the harm they are doing is rooted in domestic Republican politics that goes back to the New Deal days. In those days Republicans began to use advertising to promote the big lie. The Harvard historian Jill Lepore showed the genesis of these efforts in the New Yorker nearly a year ago. Then it was fighting End Poverty in California, the political campaign for Governor of California Upton Sinclair and later health care attacking reforms proposed by Republican Governor Earl Warren and President Truman.
Now the propagandist in chief for the “big lie” is Bill Kristol. Kristol, a veritable Don Corleone, of anti-Hagel activities has published countless daily attacks of Hagel in the Weekly Standard. That’s fair game.
At the same time he presides over the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI), Center for American Freedom (CAF) which publishes the Washington Free Beacon, a right wing propaganda sheet. Their anti Hagel attacks are joined by the Concerned Women for America, the Faith and Freedom Coalition and the Log Cabin Republicans. They use print and electronic ads. They refuse to disclose their contributors. They thrive in secrecy.
Whether they have to disclose funders legally or not is not as clear as it seems to these groups. In the meantime, while the ads are reported on in various papers such as the New York Times and Politico, Kristol and his allies Gary Bauer, Elliott Abrams, Michael Goldfarb and Rachel Abrams get a free ride from the media. The media doesn’t ask them who their funders are, not even asking them the question in order to secure a refusal to answer. On a critical question the media enables more silence than is called for.
Kristol and his allies, by their rejection of an open society when it comes to disclosure, exercise the secrecy associated with anti-democratic practices.
Hagel has received outstanding support from Veterans organizations including the conservative Veterans of Foreign Wars. Veterans groups recognize that Hagel understands their concerns and needs. That support, as Colin Powell has shown, extends to the families of the service women and men serving our country.
A bevy of retired military leaders, Generals and Admirals, from all of the services, have announced their support for Hagel. That includes Council for a Livable World Leaders, Lieutenant General Robert Gard and Brigadier General John Johns.
A bi-partisan group of Arms Control leaders have expressed strong support, including Council Executive Director John Isaacs. See: http://blog.clw2020.wpengine.com/story/2013/1/24/154556/896.
In addition mainstream Jewish groups have weighed in in support of Hagel. These include J Street and the Israel Policy Forum.
The Senate Confirmation Hearing
In a rush to judgment much was made of Hagel’s poor performance at his confirmation hearing. While none would argue that this was Hagel’s finest hour, the press in gladiator mode, ignored the thoughtful answers Hagel gave to many questioners.
Indeed these thoughtful answers soon came into play. The respected public opinion analyst Daniel Yankelovich called the public unfolding as the “first opinion” and then “the considered opinion.” That considered opinion showed the merit of Hagel’s thoughtful replies and revealed the Republican Senators (especially McCain and Graham) for what they are: bullying and badgering inquisitors.
Republican Senators focused exclusively on Israel and Iran. Democratic Senators focused on Israel and Iran and: sequestration, force levels, base closings, suicides, PTSD, enforcing the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” sexual harassment, women serving in combat. That is what the Democratic Senators dealt with. They did their part to turn the hearing into a useful and constructive one.
The Hagel confirmation fight cannot stop with the vote on Hagel’s confirmation. It requires an effort to answer the “big lie” engineered by Bill Kristol and allies.
Who are Kristols’s funders and how much are they paying? Those are the unanswered questions that must be answered.
February 11, 2013