Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Wednesday that defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel “almost had tears in his eyes” as he explained to the former Nebraska senator that the expression “Jewish lobby” is rooted in a negative depiction of Jews, Politico reported.
“Look, I had doubts about Sen. Hagel when his name was first floated, and I expressed those publicly on ‘Meet The Press’ and other places,” Schumer said at a breakfast in lower Manhattan hosted by the Association for a Better New York and the Downtown Alliance.
“[T]he president called me and said, ‘Before you come out with any decision, please sit down and talk to him.’ That was only fair,” said the New York senator.
Schumer said he spent 90 minutes asking Hagel questions, including about a “nuclear Iran”, and “he answered them very well.”
“He struck me as sincere, and you know, you have to be sitting there at the meeting obviously, but I also told him when he used the word Jewish lobby what it meant to Jewish people,” he added, according to Politico.
“And I told him what a double standard is. That Jewish people throughout the centuries have suffered a double standard. Everyone could be a farmer except Jewish people. Everyone could live in Moscow except Jewish people. I said when everyone else can lobby but all of a sudden when those of us who are pro-Israel lobby, it’s a negative, that’s a double standard. And I’m sure you didn’t mean it, but it harkens to the old days.
“And he really, you know, he almost had tears in his eyes when he understood. So I believe he will be good,” Schumer maintained, adding that there is “not a major Jewish organization against” Hagel.
Jonothan Tobin of Commentary Magazine notes that Schumer’s “claims are not only false but are a transparent attempt to deflect attention from the real issue in the debate over Hagel: the president’s choice of an incompetent nominee who is also a well known antagonist of Israel with a record of opposition to getting tough on Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah.”
“When Hagel used that term in 2006 (at his confirmation hearing he said it was the only time he said it ‘on the record’) or made other disturbing comments about the Israeli Foreign Ministry controlling the U.S. State Department or that Israel was on its way to being an ‘apartheid state,’ he knew exactly what he was saying,” writes Tobin.
“Far from a misunderstanding, there is a clear pattern in Hagel’s record and it speaks to his contempt for the U.S.-Israel alliance and its supporters. Indeed, the context of the ‘Jewish lobby’ remark showed that he considered it a point of honor to stand up to Israel’s supporters,” Tobin states, adding that, “For Schumer to go on pretending that Jewish groups are neutral about Hagel can only be characterized as blatantly dishonest.”
“The notion that Hagel’s contrite interview with Schumer or any of his other fumbling attempts to walk back a long record of antagonism should outweigh a record replete with votes and statements demonstrating his desire to stand apart from the bipartisan pro-Israel consensus is absurd,” Tobin asserts.