In the United States Senate, all members get a vote, but all members are not equal. Just like in George Orwell's Animal Farm, some senators are more equal than others.
On matters involving the US-Israel relationship, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York is as equal as you can be. He's Jewish and he represents an extremely engaged and well-informed constituency. He's number three in the Senate Democratic leadership, and has prodigious fundraising skills that can be put to work to assist his Democratic colleagues.
On Monday of this week, Senator Schumer had a face-to-face sit down with President Obama's nominee for Secretary of Defense, former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel. The meeting lasted 90 minutes, and took place in the West Wing of the White House. Matters on the agenda included Hagel's views on Israel, and how he has expressed himself on that topic over the years … subjects that have caused the Right Wing of the Israel Lobby (RWIL) to pull out all stops to defeat his confirmation.
On Tuesday, Senator Schumer called Hagel and advised Hagel that he had his support. Senator Schumer released a statement which said, "I am currently prepared to vote for his [Hagel's] confirmation. I encourage my Senate colleagues, who have shared my previous concerns, to also support him."
This is great news for those of us who believe that President Obama should be allowed to assemble a team that shares his views on the intelligent, and rare, use of force. Hagel is the polar opposite of the "bombs away" neocons that pushed us into war in Iraq, and are hot to trot to have a go with Iran.
Unlike them, Hagel has been to war. Unlike them, Hagel believes that you talk to your adversaries, and that force is always a last resort. Unlike them, Hagel has a natural empathy for and affinity with the troops that bear the battle … a quality then-Senator Barack Obama witnessed firsthand when he traveled to Afghanistan with Hagel in 2008.
Senator Schumer's support, announced on Tuesday, is in addition to recently-announced support from Senators Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein, both of California, and Senator Carl Levin, Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, which will conduct confirmation hearings on Hagel. Senators Boxer, Feinstein, Levin, and Schumer are all senior, well-respected members of the Senate majority. They are also Jewish. For these and other reasons, their opinion should carry weight with their colleagues.
While Hagel still has to navigate the minefield of confirmation hearings and the well-financed, continuous, and sleazy attacks of the RWIL, the odds now clearly favor his confirmation.
There is no doubt that Chuck Hagel is a little rough around the edges. It is also true that he would not achieve a perfect score on a Rachel Maddow administered political correctness inquisition. He is, however, the President's choice and the absolute right person for the job.
Not only that, Colin Powell is for him, and Rick Santorum is against him. How much more do you need to know?
This is a special post. I will post again on Wednesday, February 6, 2013 and, for the time being, I will post on the first Wednesday of each month.
Comments are welcome at tomc[at]wednesdayswars[dot]com. Name and town if you wish to opine. Comments will be addressed in subsequent posts.