Wednesday, February 6, 2013


My barber asked me, “If you were a Republican Senator, would you vote to confirm former Senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense?”

“Absolutely YES! It makes no sense for a Republican Senator NOT to vote for his confirmation,” I responded.

“Why?” he followed up.

First, he was elected as a Republican in the Senate twice. He obtained over 56% of the votes in his first election, and over 84% in his second election. As a Senator, he was in the Armed Services Committee and he and his department would easily be accessible to the same committee.

Second, he is a Reaganite. His first involvement in politics was as an organizer for the successful presidential campaign of Ronald Reagan. The latter appointed him later as the Deputy Administrator of the Veterans Administration (VA).

Third, he is a proven Conservative. When he was a Senator, his over-all Conservative rating was 81% - higher than Senators McCain (73%), Murkowski (62%), Collins (72%), Corker (80%), Alexander (73%), Hatch (77%) and Cochran (68%) when they served with him. They are still serving as Senators currently.

Principal opponents of his confirmation are Senators McCain and Graham. Yet, when they served as Senators together, the TVC Conservative group gave Hagel a 100% rating while it gave both McCain and Graham only 80%. Another Conservative group RTL gave Hagel a 100% rating while giving McCain only 75%.  It is even worse in the case of the Conservative FRC – Hagel’s rating was 100% and McCain was only 42%. In the same period, American Conservative Union even rated Hagel – 75% to McCain’s 65%.

Even from the point of view of Liberals, current Senators like Grassley (30%), Hatch (33%) and Alexander (26%) were considered more Liberal than Hagel whose rating was only 25%.

Fourth, he is a Vietnam War Veteran. He knows what war is and its impact on the men and women in uniform and their families. He knows it from the point of view of the infantry and the NCOs, not just the officer corps. This explains his being cautious about wars and about risking the lives of young men and women.

Fifth, he is a genuine WAR HERO. He knows whereof he speaks. He has medals and awards to prove it – Two Purple Hearts, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, Army Commendation Medal, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

Sixth, he was a successful businessman and entrepreneur as well as a proven, competent, efficient, and effective Chief Executive of profitable companies. His experiences in co-founding and running Vanguard Cellular, a mobile phone service carrier,  and an investment firm would be plusses in managing an enterprise as large as the Defense Department especially in this Digital Age where Cyber warfare is an added component.

Seventh, he was a media man who had an early experience as a radio newscaster and as a talk show host. He knows how to deal with the media and its thirst and hunger for news both in times of peace and war.

Eighth, he was a beneficiary of the GI Bill and a strong advocate for veterans. He understands the needs of all the men and women in the uniformed services.

Ninth, he is currently a professor at the Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, Chairman of the Atlantic Council, and Co-Chairman of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board. He knows, feels, and understands the security needs of America.

Tenth, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft endorsed him. These are all Republicans in the security establishment. Nine other retired military officers; nine former U.S. Ambassadors including five former Ambassadors to Israel also endorsed him. Even Reaganite Pat Buchanan who is noted for his conservatism wants Hagel to be Secretary of Defense.

Lastly, he speaks the truth. When he says that the Israeli lobby is very influential in Washington, D.C., he is telling the truth.  Every lobbyist, legislator, advocate and organization engaged in influencing American policy knows it. I know it.

I remember when we were forming an umbrella organization of Asian Businesses in the 1980s. We decided to name it APACC (Asian Pacific American Chamber of Commerce) because we wanted it to sound like AIPAC (American Israeli Public Affairs Committee), the most influential lobby group in Washington, D.C.

In fact, President Reagan even rewarded us with a grant and called it “the fastest growing ethnic business group in the country.” I was its first Executive Director.

Tom Dine, a former Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines, later led AIPAC as its Executive Director. He and I worked in the presidential campaign of the late Senator Ted Kennedy.  In this part of the world, they remain, “the chosen people.”

AIPAC touts itself as the premier advocacy group in the Capitol. While many organizations or lobby firms try to emulate it, I have yet to see to date anyone that could be close to being one.

This does not mean that Hagel loves Israel less. He just loves the people of Israel and of America more. He feels that people need not sacrifice their lives for wars that could be avoided by means other than killing one’s enemies. While war remains as an option for deterrence, peaceful negotiations should be explored to the maximum. This is why Rabbi Aryeth Azriel, the Senior Rabbi at Temple Israel of Omaha Nebraska whole-heartedly endorses him for Defense Secretary.

For the reasons cited above in his DEFENSE, the Republican Senators should vote AYE to confirm Chuck Hagel as DEFENSE Secretary.

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