The Washington witch trial of Chuck Hagel

Under pressure over the issues of Iran and Israel at his Senate confirmation hearing, Obama’s nominee for defense secretary caves in completely.

Thursday’s Senate confirmation hearing of Chuck Hagel was something out of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” or the 1950s House Un-American Activities Committee sessions. “Senator Hagel, are you now or have you ever been a realist?” “Your soul is in peril, Senator – recant!”

And Hagel recanted, over and over again. Under pressure on Iran and Israel (among other taboo subjects), he apologized to his inquisitors for referring to the “Jewish lobby” (“I should have said ‘pro-Israel lobby'”), apologized for saying it “intimidated” people (“I should have said ‘influenced'”), caved in over saying the lobby had gotten Congress to do “dumb” things (couldn’t think of a dumb thing it had ever gotten Congress to do).

On Iran he recanted for opposing military force to stop it from going nuclear (“All options must be on the table,” and “My policy is one of prevention, and not of containment”), recanted for suggesting that the Revolutionary Guard was not a terrorist organization, also recanted for suggesting that Hezbollah was not a terrorist organization.

Best of all, he apologized for having said Israel was not justified in “keeping Palestinians caged up like animals.” (“If I had the opportunity to edit that, like many things I’ve said, I would like to go back and change the words and meaning. I regret using that choice of words.”)

What an embarrassing thing to watch. What a blood-chilling, Orwellian  bunch, these interrogators, especially Lindsey Graham. Feeding them is the most virulent branch of the pro-war/anti-Muslim lobby: Sheldon Adelson, the Emergency Committee for Israel and Weekly Standard magazine, led by their hit men William Kristol, Michael Goldfarb and Noah Pollak.

Hagel needs five Republican votes to get confirmed as secretary of defense; reports are that it’s touch and go. At this point, I don’t think it matters; he’s been so compromised, so smacked around by Israel’s enforcers, that he’d probably be afraid to say anything but “yes” to Netanyahu once he got to the Pentagon.

This was a spectacle of America and Israel at their worst. It was the worst of the Obama administration, too, a reminder of why this president’s second term is unlikely to be any better than his first as far as the Middle East is concerned.

Oh well. So much for Chuck Hagel. Another great white hope vanquished.