One-time supporters of the notoriously anti-Israel diplomat Charles Freeman are rallying around Chuck Hagel, the embattled potential secretary of defense.
Hagel, a former Nebraska Republican Senator rumored to be in the running to head the Pentagon, has faced sharp criticism from lawmakers and pro-Israel groups for comments they say are anti-Israel and borderline anti-Semitic. He also came under fire for previous remarks about his opposition toward an “aggressively gay” nominee for an ambassadorship.
Yet Hagel still maintains support from a “diverse array of voices,” according to the Atlantic’s Robert Wright.
However, these are the same “voices” that once supported former Amb. Charles Freeman, the anti-Semitic diplomat who was forced to resign from President Barack Obama’s top intelligence panel after pro-Israel advocates objected to his harsh anti-Israel views.
Hagel, too, has been criticized by Jewish groups for his comments about the “Jewish lobby,” leading some observers to question why Freeman’s defenders are coming to Hagel’s defense.
“It is very interesting to see the odd collection of voices who always seem to leap to the defense of people like this. It takes a special breed to use language associated with neo-Nazi theories of Jewish control or intimidation and be the LONE Senator refusing to condemn anti-Semitism, when 99 fellow Senators speak out,” one D.C.-based political consultant told the Free Beacon. “And it takes a special breed to support such a person.”
Nearly all of those cited by Wright as being members of team Hagel positioned themselves as Freeman supporters.
“Forget the Iranians for minute, what kind of message is the White House sending about its priorities when it says, we don't care if he calls people ‘openly, aggressively gay’ or throws around language about Jews that the Anti-Defamation League and the Nazi-hunters of the Simon Wiesenthal Center say is vile, or spends an entire career voting against a woman's right to choose, including for women in the military?” asked the source.
“Apparently, that it sides with those who defend him over their own professed values. Now that is really saying something.”
Hagel-defender Andrew Sullivan, for instance, fiercely backed Freeman in 2009 when pro-Israel organizations and others objected to his appointment on President Obama’s top intelligence panel.
The American Conservative’s Scott McConnell also expressed support for Freeman in 2009 as criticism over his appointment built.
McConnell penned a similar defense of Hagel earlier this week.
Blogger Daniel Larison, who made David Brooks's recent list of future conservative stars, also took to the American Conservative to defend Freeman from “the Israel lobby,” as he put it in 2009.
One of the sole voices in the Jewish community that supports a possible Hagel nomination is the fringe group J Street, which has stated that the former Senator would be an ideal defense secretary.
J Street was also the sole Jewish communal voice to have expressed disappointment in the fight over Freeman and his anti-Israel rhetoric.
Multiple bloggers at the Center for American Progress Action Fund's ThinkProgress blog, which in the past has faced its own anti-Semitic controversy, have also penned kind words about both Hagel and Freeman.
CAP foreign policy blogger Matt Duss referred to Freeman as “very well qualified” despite Freeman’s questionable rhetoric about Jewish people.
ThinkProgress’ Ben Armbruster, who recently attempted to recount what he claimed is Hagel’s “pro-Israel record,” had warm words for Freeman in 2009.
One of the country’s chief conspiracy mongers regarding the “Jewish lobby” expressed support for both Hagel and Freeman throughout the years.
Author Stephen M. Walt, coauthor of the widely panned The Israel Lobby, accused the Jewish community in 2009 of waging a McCarthy-like campaign to discredit Freeman.
Walt rehashed similar arguments in backing Hagel who he said “has the right enemies” such as Jewish community groups.