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Chuck Hegel was interrogated by the Senate Armed Services Committee prior to their deciding whether or not to confirm him as Secretary of Defense. Now we have some idea as to what it was like to be questioned by the Inquisition.
Hegel is the first cabinet nominee in history to have his confirmation hearing preceded by smear and attack ads on television, ads paid for by anonymous donors. The New York Times has said that Sheldon Adelson, the pro-Israel billionaire, is invested in the fight against Hegel, but it’s impossible to say that he has financed the ads.
During the hearing Republican members of the committee badgered Hegel — beat up on him verbally might be a more accurate description. John McCain hammered his former friend because Hegel, though a Republican Senator at the time, had said that the Iraq “surge” was a foreign policy disaster. McCain asked Hegel if he had been wrong and heatedly pursued Hegel for a yes or no answer. Hegel said he’d leave the judgement up to history.
Hegel was pounded for remarks he made about lobbyists for Israel, referring to them as “the Jewish lobby.” (Just in passing, it might be noted that in a letter to the New York Times, Henry Siegman, who worked for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, this country’s biggest pro-Israel lobby, reported that “the organization was referred to by everyone in the Jewish community as ‘the Jewish lobby for Israel.’” ) Senator Lindsey Graham, the Republican from South Carolina, was furious that Hegel had said lawmakers had been intimidated into doing “dumb things” on behalf of the lobby. You might wonder why Graham got so very, very worked up about that. Americans routinely say that Congress is intimidated by lobbyists and does dumb things. (more…)