Colin Powell’s Hagel thesis

Colin Powell appeared on Meet the Press this morning to speak up on behalf of Chuck Hagel. It was an amazing performance. Amazingly disgusting. My daughter Eliana has posted the video at NRO. Please check it out if you missed Powell’s turn at bat for Hagel and Team Obama.

Powell both excused Hagel’s disparagement of American supporters of Israel and crudely disparaged Republicans as racist. Eliana explicates Powell’s comments in part as follows:

Former secretary of state Colin Powell emerged this morning to voice his support for Chuck Hagel’s nomination as secretary of defense. Powell characterized Hagel as a strong supporter of Israel, a move that surely anticipates Hagel’s own in his confirmation hearing. In defending Hagel’s pro-Israel credentials and dismissing the significance of Hagel’s now-infamous reference to the “Jewish lobby,” Powell offered a revealing response.

“That term slips out from time to time,” he told NBC’s David Gregory. “So Chuck should have said ‘Israeli lobby,’ not ‘Jewish lobby,’ and perhaps he needs to write on a blackboard a hundred times ‘It is the Israeli lobby.’” (Gregory spared Powell the difficulty of Hagel’s distinguishing himself as “not an Israeli senator.”)

If the problem with Hagel’s statement was, in part, that he conflated Jews, broadly speaking, with a pro-Israel lobby that consists of Jews, Christians, and other Americans, Colin Powell was the wrong person to clean up his mess.

What Hagel termed the “Jewish lobby” – and what is, in reality, a pro-Israel lobby – has mutated, in Powell’s telling, into an “Israeli lobby.” Those familiar with the age-old charge of dual loyalties that has been lobbed at Jews for centuries will know that Powell’s assertion triggers bad historical memories….

No sooner do we learn about the “Israeli lobby,” though, than we discover both Powell and Hagel are members of it! “There is an Israeli lobby,” Powell explained, “there are people who are very supportive of the state of Israel, I’m very supportive of the state of Israel, so is Senator Hagel, and you’ll see that at the confirmation hearings. But it doesn’t mean you have to agree with every single position.”

So, Powell counts himself and Hagel as members of the lobby that’s “broadly supportive of the state of Israel.” If the pro-Israel lobby extends from groups like AIPAC to people like Powell and Hagel, one starts to wonder how much influence this lobby can really have, and why Hagel would have bemoaned the intimidating influence of this lobby on his Capitol Hill colleagues. The dishonesty is evident on its face.

Here Eliana turns to Powell’s disparagement of Republicans:

Powell’s bizarre defense of Hagel took an even more troubling turn as he decried the “dark vein of intolerance” in some parts of the Republican Party. In particular, he singled out former Alaska governor Sarah Palin and former New Hampshire governor John Sununu for their racial insensitivity, charging that they “look down on minorities.” Palin attacked the Obama administration for withholding information on the Benghazi scandal, accusing the president of doing a “shuck and jive”; “That’s a racial-era, slave term,” Powell said. Sununu slammed the president’s first debate performance against Mitt Romney, calling Obama “lazy and detached”; “Now, it may not mean anything to most Americans, but to those of us who are African-Americans, the second word is ‘shiftless’ and then there’s another word that goes along with it.”

One might think that a modicum of self-awareness would prevent Powell from making such charges after flippantly dismissing the concerns raised by many in the Jewish and pro-Israel communities. Don’t such remarks just — woopsy daisy! — “slip out from time to time”? And if Powell finds the use of slave-era terminology offensive, one wonders why he has difficulty understanding that, among Jews, the imputation of dual loyalty rankles, even if “it many not mean anything to most Americans.”

Forgive me for quoting my daughter at length and asking you to read the whole thing. Although we undoubtedly have worse in store, this is a significant start and attention must be paid.


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