I can’t say that I was surprised. Disappointed, but not surprised.
I had remarked to one of my aides that certain elected officials standing against Chuck Hagel’s nomination would be the harbinger of the Messiah coming. A time of miracles. The miracle of authenticity. But, alas, we still trudge through the dark and call it light.
Former Senator Chuck Hagel is not an unknown entity. He is not someone who has to clarify anything. His record of anti-Semitic statements was not hastily put together by a group of paranoid Jews but gathered publicly and discussed prominently over time as Hagel himself racked up occurrences that were anything but dubious: Refusing to meet with Jewish groups in his home state of Nebraska while serving as its senator. Referring to elected officials fearing a “Jewish” lobby. Implying that any senator who supported Israel was more of an Israeli patriot than a U.S. one. Stating that if Haifa wanted a USO, “let the Jews pay for it.”
The former senator’s positions on Iran and terrorist groups weren’t secrets either. It was well known on Capitol Hill that Senator Hagel not only shunned discussion of a military strike by either the U.S. or Israel to prevent Iran from achieving its goal of nuclear armament, but that the former senator even encouraged efforts to bring Iran to the table for peace talks regarding Afghanistan. That he opposed numerous Iran-sanction bills. So much for not negotiating with terrorists.
Yes, we know who Chuck Hagel is.
So the question is really: Who are we?
Are we elected officials forever reduced to the role of politicians, or are we genuinely public servants? Are we zealously Democrats before we are anything else, or are we American leaders tasked with protecting the interests of those who put us in office? Are we honest people who are willing to call an anti-Semite by his true name, or are we good soldiers following a script, hoping that we will be spared if and when the other shoe drops?
Picture what would have happened if President George W. Bush had nominated his fellow Republican Chuck Hagel to the office of Secretary of Defense. It doesn’t leave much to the imagination: There would have been fist fights aplenty as Democrats pushed each other out of the way in an effort to be first to condemn the former senator from Nebraska.
But today these same Democrats follow the script. Today they line up like good soldiers and give Mr. Hagel a pass. Today they believe in a newly minted Chuck Hagel — a man whose hurtful and (given his new position) frightening statements about Israel were misunderstood. Today, Democrats support a man who they, apparently, misunderstood yesterday, but understand much better today.
Surprised, no. Disappointed, but not surprised.
Why not surprised? Because Chuck Hagel wants this job. So Chuck Hagel — who never recanted any of the anti-Jewish remarks he made in the past — has today had an epiphany. Today he is sorry. He is sorry that he was misunderstood.
And the Democrats who represent the millions concerned with the fate of Israel and the Jewish people, and the tens of millions who understand that Iran and Hizbullah and Hamas are, at the end of the day, essentially the same entity — those Democrats are willing to pardon Chuck Hagel for any misunderstandings and racist faux pas and give the former senator of Nebraska a pass, allowing him to step into the very important role of U.S. Secretary of Defense. Because today Chuck Hagel is sorry.
And how sorry will those we trusted to protect us today be tomorrow?
Dov Hikind is a Democratic New York State Assemblyman representing Brooklyn’s 48th Assembly District.