[CORRECTED] Chuck Hagel and the Mysterious "Anti-Semitic" Quote

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 17 2012 1:12 PM

[CORRECTED] Chuck Hagel and the Mysterious "Anti-Semitic" Quote

Correction, Dec. 19, 2012: This whole post is based on some flawed reporting. As you'll see below, I noticed that a quote appearing in a memo criticial of Chuck Hagel was not in the book being cited. The quote was actually given to the author, but not used—something I could have checked had I contacted the author. (Because the memo was anonymous, I didn't contact its author, as I would normally do.) It's not my policy to shoot bad items down the memory hole, so the original post remains printed below, and a full correction is here.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Bill Kristol's become the public, famous face of a pretty widespread campaign against the possible DOD nomination of Chuck Hagel. Kristol's written so much about the former Nebrasaka senator, for so long, that he's now publishing a sort of greatest hits. His latest post is the text of a memo "circulating widely on Capitol Hill," attempting to prove -- let's not be cute about it -- that Hagel is an anti-Semite. Hagel's quoted as referring dismissively to "the Jewish Lobby," and say no more.

“The political reality is that … the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here.” (Hagel interviewed in Aaron David Miller’s 2008 book The Too Much Promised Land)

Via Justin Raimondo*, I think I spot a problem. The quote isn't merely redacted. It's partly fabricated. Miller calls Hagel "honest," and describes his way of thinking without quite endorsing it -- and without saying he's got an issue with the Jews.

"This is an institution that does not inherently bring out a great deal of courage," Hagel continued. "Most of the time members play it safe and adopt an 'I’ll support Israel' attitude. AIPAC comes knocking with a pro-Israel letter, and 'then you’ll get 80 to 90 senators on it. I don’t think I’ve ever signed one of the letters.'
When someone would accuse him of not being pro-Israel because he didn’t sign the letter, Hagel told me he responds: "‘I didn’t sign the letter because it was a stupid letter." Few legislators talk this way on the Hill. Hagel is a strong supporter of Israel and a believer in shared values. "The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here," but as he put it, "I'm a United States senator. I'm not an Israeli senator."

The "political reality" line, which makes Hagel sound like he's importing even greater power to the Jews, doesn't appear. Anywhere. Earlier in the book, the author himself argues that "too often American political leaders and diplomats have forgotten that 'fair and effective' means refusing to give Israel carte blanche to influence, let alone impose, its views on America's tactics and strategies." But half of this "Hagel" quote is fake.

Maybe it doesn't matter. The idea that Hagel would slide through the Senate -- hey, he used to be in it! -- ignores just how much time he spent whaling on fellow Republicans during the last half of his second term.

*Raimondo and I aren't exactly foxhole buddies.

For the fuller story behind this erroneous post, see my full correction here.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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