Even Zealots Can Overreach

In her campaign to keep Chuck Hagel from becoming Secretary of Defense, WaPo’s Jennifer Rubin has heretofore stayed on the relatively strong ground of appealing to people in both parties who share her views about the Middle East (and the related issue of Israel’s position in the hierarchy of American foreign policy interests). Yeah, she has gone over-the-top in suggesting that the one-time (and explicitly regretted) utterance of the words “Jewish Lobby” by Hagel places him in the ranks of the world’s great anti-Semites. But by and large, she’s focused on the argument that those who believe in the “not an inch of space” argument for unconditional U.S. support for whatever Bibi Netanyahu wants, and in the related claim that Iran represents an existential threat to Israel (and thus an existential threat to America) shouldn’t let party loyalty or old senatorial relationships get in the way of opposing this nomination.

Fair enough. But now Rubin (perhaps growing desperate) is making a more plenary argument: Hagel is obviously one of the worst presidential nominees for a Cabinet position ever, so only servility or sloth could possibly justify his confirmation!

In her latest of many long posts on the subject, Rubin executes this change of perspective via a labored effort to establish that Chuck Hegel is a moral leper, a loose cannon, and an extremist far outside the mainstream of respectable thinking. To be sure, 99% of her bill of particulars on all three fronts come back to his alleged hatred of Israel and fondness for mullahs and terrorists. But the effort to identify Hagel with the kind of kookiness that both Republicans and Democrats tend to eschew in high-level appointments is summed up in this sentence:

The elected official who most resembles Hagel’s extreme voting record and views is now former congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex.).

I must have missed the moment when Hagel embraced a general policy of non-intervention or denounced the United Nations as an anti-American conspiracy. Or more likely, in casting about for any weapon with which to batter his nominee, Rubin is showing that even zealots can overreach.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.