Neoconservatives have come out in force against rumored prospective Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, accusing him of being an enemy of Israel. "We will make sure every American knows he is an anti-Semite," a GOP Senate aide told the Weekly Standard last week. The controversy centers around a phrase the former Nebraska senator once uttered: "The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here." Bret Stephens at the Wall Street Journal yesterday decried Hagel's line as "the usual slur on Jewish-Americans: Dual loyalty" between Israel and the US.
A number of Jewish advocacy groups are urging Congress to oppose Hagel, the New York Times reports, hoping to scare the White House into picking someone else. But Dana Milbank at the Washington Post thinks the argument is overblown. In context, Hagel's remarks make sense—he was explaining why he didn't sign "stupid" letters from AIPAC. "I support Israel," he said. "But my first interest is I take an oath of office" to the US. Milbank thinks the attempt to discredit him is "particularly egregious" because Hagel is "among the best and bravest public servants," and "exactly the sort of person to head the Pentagon."