I had thought that Lindsey Graham would be the most effective questioner of Chuck Hagel at today’s hearing, and Graham did his usual fine job of “cross-examination.” But for my money, Ted Cruz topped Graham and everyone else with questions that exposed not just Hagel’s contempt for Israel, but his contempt for the United States. You can view the tape of Cruz’s devastating round with Hagel here.
First, Cruz played excerpts from a tape of Hagel’s 2009 appearance on al Jazeera, in which a caller suggested that Israel had committed war crimes. In responding to the question, Hagel did not dispute the caller’s statement. Cruz also pointed to a statement by Hagel that Israel had engaged in “the sickening slaughter” of Hezbollah, which sounds a bit like war crimes.
Taken together, these pieces of information show that Hagel regards Israel as a criminal state, or at least is comfortable with that characterization. Hagel tried, with the same lameness he displayed most of the day, to talk his way around this conclusion. He stated that both sides — Israelis and Hezbollah — had slaughtered each other. Perhaps Hagel will produce a tape in which he accused the Palestinians of engaging in a “sickening slaughter” of Israelis. Perhaps he will produce a tape (from the period before he was in the running for a cabinet job under President Obama) in which he took exception to the claim that Israel has committed war crimes. Perhaps, but don’t hold your breath.
Next, Cruz played an excerpt from the same interview in which the al Jazeera host read a reader e-mail claiming that the United States has served as the world’s bully. This time Hagel not only failed to take exception and stick up for his country, he said on al Jazeera he found some merit in the claim, calling it “a good observation” (the Washington Post report linked to above fails to report this fact).
Pressed by Cruz, Hagel tried to squirm his way out of this bit of anti-Americanism by misrepresenting both the email and his response. But Cruz brought him back to the text, which makes it quite clear that Hagel endorsed the view that America is the world’s bully.
Chairman Levin saw the problem these excerpts pose for Hagel, and suggested that Cruz should have presented the entire interview transcript, not just video excerpts. Cruz agreed to transcribe the interview clips in their entirety and post them on his Senate webpage.
If, as is likely, Hagel is confirmed, President Obama will have in place a Secretary of State who (albeit decades ago) called the U.S. military “the Army of Genghis Khan” and a Secretary of Defense who (a few short years ago) found merit in the view that the U.S. is the world’s bully.
This state of affairs is altogether fitting for a president who, himself, holds America in contempt. At least Hagel and Kerry can point to their experiences in Vietnam as the source of their disillusionment with America. What can Obama point to, his days in Rev. Wright’s church?
JOHN adds: Here are the al-Jazeera clips that Sen. Cruz played today:
Already, after just a month in office, it seems clear that two new superstars have emerged in the Republican Party and the conservative movement: Tom Cotton in the House, and Ted Cruz in the Senate.