Firestorm of Criticism for Cabinet Nominee Front-Runner Chuck Hagel
RAY SUAREZ: Former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel has not, so far, been nominated for the top Pentagon job, but attacks like this TV ad began shortly after news accounts named Hagel the front-runner. They focus mostly on whether he’s sufficiently pro-Israel.
NOAH POLLAK, Emergency Committee for Israel: There is an incredible level of concern about the kind of secretary of defense he would be, based on his foreign policy views and his foreign policy record, and the things he’s said over the past dozen years of his political career.
RAY SUAREZ: Noah Pollak is executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel, which produced the TV ad.
Under federal law, the committee doesn’t have to disclose the sources of its funding, but it’s one of several pro-Israel groups opposing Hagel.
NOAH POLLAK: You take an issue like Iran, which is the — probably the single greatest national security threat and problem that we will have to deal with in the coming few years, and Chuck Hagel has already come out and said that he’s against — he thinks military strikes are not a viable option. He’s even come out against sanctions. And you have to wonder, what kind of advice would he give to the president?
RAY SUAREZ: Hagel has also taken fire from gay rights advocates in his own party. In last Thursday’s New York Times, the Log Cabin Republicans posted a full-page ad that read, “Chuck Hagel: Wrong on Gay Rights, Wrong on Iran, Wrong on Israel.” The ad included remarks Hagel made in 1998 calling an ambassadorial nominee “openly, aggressively gay.”
The diplomat in question, Amb. James Hormel, has accepted Hagel’s apology. Log Cabin Republicans have not.
Last Sunday, President Obama was asked about the remarks on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
PRESIENT BARACK OBAMA: He apologized for it, and I think it’s a testimony to what has been a positive change over the last decade in terms of people’s attitudes about gays and lesbians serving our country. And that’s something that I’m very proud to have led, and I think that anybody who serves in my administration understands my attitude and position on those issues.
RAY SUAREZ: Indeed, Hagel already serves this administration. He’s co-chaired the president’s Intelligence Advisory Board since 2009, after he left the Senate. In his Sunday interview, the president called Hagel a patriot, but he also said there’s been no decision on a nominee.