Schumer, key Jewish Democrat, overcomes reservations on Hagel
January 15th, 2013
10:00 AM ET
1 year ago

Schumer, key Jewish Democrat, overcomes reservations on Hagel

Washington (CNN) - Sen. Chuck Schumer, a key Democrat and Jewish lawmaker, said a Monday meeting with Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel helped him overcome his reservations about some of the nominee's past comments. Hagel has been received skeptically by some on both sides of the aisle because of positions he has taken on Israel, Iran, and his 2007 statement that a "Jewish lobby intimidated lawmakers."

Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, becomes the second prominent Democrat in the last day to back the former two-term Republican senator from Nebraska.

Schumer said in a press release, "Based on several key assurances provided by Senator Hagel, I am currently prepared to vote for his confirmation. I encourage my Senate colleagues who have shared my previous concerns to also support him."

"Senator Hagel volunteered that he has always supported Israel's right to retaliate militarily in the face of terrorist attacks by Hezbollah or Hamas," he said.

Schumer added, "On Iran, Senator Hagel rejected a strategy of containment and expressed the need to keep all options on the table in confronting that country. But he didn't stop there. In our conversation, Senator Hagel made a crystal-clear promise that he would do 'whatever it takes' to stop Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons, including the use of military force."

The New York lawmaker also said their conversation "clarified a number of his past statements and positions and elaborated on several others," including Hagel's view that Hezbollah is a terrorist group and opposition to negotiations between the U.S. and Hezbollah or Hamas.

"Regarding his unfortunate use of the term 'Jewish lobby' to refer to certain pro-Israel groups, Senator Hagel understands the sensitivity around such a loaded term and regrets saying it," Schumer said, adding he hoped the "thorough explanations will remove any lingering controversy regarding his nomination."

The 90-minute meeting was held at the White House, according to a Senate aide, and Schumer was Hagel's first face-to-face meeting with a U.S. senator regarding his nomination. It is rare for a nominee's first meeting to be with a senator who does not sit on the committee which will hold hearings on the nomination.

After the meeting with Hagel, the aide said Schumer met with President Barack Obama. Schumer reached out to Hagel Tuesday morning "to inform him he was prepared to support his nomination and wish him the best as he undergoes the full confirmation process," the aide said.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, another Jewish Democrat who represents a significant Jewish population in California, said in a telephone conversation with Hagel he "pledged without reservation to support President Obama's polices – policies that I believe have made our world safer and our alliances stronger."

The Senate aide who spoke about Hagel said the New York senator was also offered a telephone conversation with Hagel, but said the issue was important enough to merit a face-to-face meeting. Schumer returned to Washington from New York for the meeting, as the Senate is currently not in session.

On the Republican side, Sen. John McCain said Sunday he would not exert the power available to every senator to block a nomination from receiving a floor vote. The Arizona Republican maintained he has a "number of questions about his view of America's role in the world, about Iraq, about Afghanistan, about Iran, the threat of Iran." McCain said he hopes his friendship with Hagel remains despite the reservations.

Meanwhile, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee raised questions about Hagel's "overall temperament." Other Republicans have also questioned the former Nebraska Republican senator's positions.

– CNN's Gregory Wallace, Paul Steinhauser and Ashley Killough contributed to this report


Filed under: Charles Schumer • Chuck Hagel
soundoff (72 Responses)
  1. Larry L

    @sonny chapman

    Larry L & others; At the risk of being labeled as Anti-Semite, what is the AMERICAN benefit to this "alliance" with Israel ? Aren't alliances supposed to be MUTUALLY beneficial to the parties ?
    ================================================================================================
    I suppose the alliance does two tangible things. 1. We have an ally near the choke points for oil production – a big plus. 2. It placates the strong and active Jewish lobby in the U.S.

    I served on the MFO peacekeeping force for a year and developed deep admiration for the Israeli Defense Force – but never really understood the true benefit of developing only one reliable ally in the region – especially one with no oil.

    January 15, 2013 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  2. CA Independent

    STOP THE PRESSES!!!!! Top Democrat agrees with Obama!

    January 15, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  3. Michael

    Hagel is a VietNam vet; he's seen war up close and personal, unlike MOST in Congress. Hagel has shown financial accumen and (IMO) will bring much needed clarity to DoD. He knows that Congress continues to fund unwanted and obscenely overpriced programs, not because the military needs or wants them but due entirely to jobs in a congressional district. If one removes the emotion from the equation, everything that Hegel has said is true; at least he not only speaks his mind but is not afraid of the audience. It's not a long handled earth moving implement, it's a freaking spade !! It's about time that we get people like Hagel in position to do something favorable and necessary.

    January 15, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  4. Fair is Fair

    Larry L

    I served on the MFO peacekeeping force for a year and developed deep admiration for the Israeli Defense Force – but never really understood the true benefit of developing only one reliable ally in the region – especially one with no oil.
    ------
    Thank you for your service.

    We have and have had several allies in the area... Iran (under the Shah) was a very good ally until the 1979 revolution. Qatar, the UAE, and Bahrain are good allies. The problem really isn't so much the oil... we chose to ally with Israel at a point in our history when we were pretty much energy independent. That changed... and unfortunately at the same time, the Middle East also became more radically Islamist.... and when dealing with radical Islam, being an ally of Israel is a deal breaker.

    January 15, 2013 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  5. Ben

    Let's just hope that Hagel had his fingers crossed. Otherwise, it actually is true that Israel and it's US representatives are picking our president's cabinet.

    January 15, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  6. BBMad

    Okay, I 'm onboard with the assault weapons and high capacity magazine ban as soon as we ban vehicles. Vehicles cause more deaths each year than guns. Also, drunk drivers kill more people each year than guns, so let's ban alcohol. And, while we're at it, obesity kills more people each year than guns, so let's ban certain foods (all fast food at a minimum). Or at least ban forks since they obviously contribute to obesity. Smoking kills more people each year than guns, so let's ban smoking too. See where I'm going? Where do you draw the line? Do we ban anything that kills people?
    Eat about the recent school shooting in California? The shooter used a shotgun, so should we ban shotguns?

    January 15, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  7. BBMad

    My previous comment was supposed to posted under the story about the 19 recommendations for gun control. When I selected post the story and my posted changed....UNSAT!

    January 15, 2013 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  8. bill

    Chuck Shumer must have Alzheimer's or maybe dementia if he can support Hagel. It's time to remove him from office.
    As for the idiot above, yes an alliance is for military. You think we have an alliance with Arab world. They only want to destroy the American way of life.

    January 15, 2013 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  9. Thomas P.

    Jeez, if Schumer is typical of the support that Israel receivers from American Jews, Israel is screwed.

    January 15, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  10. Evergreen

    When looking at our relationship with Israel, the phrase "Friends don't let friends drive drunk" comes to mind. At times Israel appears to be drunk on power. It is to their benefit that the US look at their decision less emotionally.

    January 15, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  11. Stop Hagel

    Ah, Chuck Schumer....turning his back on the tribe. What a pitiful showing just to bolster Obama. Obama is Hitler.

    January 15, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  12. TrendingOne

    Chuck Schumer showing that surely he is resigning from politics after this term.
    Turn your back on your Jewish bretheren?
    And you're from New York?
    Clearly you are gone daddy gone....

    January 15, 2013 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  13. Silly Boy

    CNN
    Creepy Nation of Nazi's

    Showing their anti-semitism again.
    Full force.

    January 15, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  14. Really

    Schumer.
    Gas chamber memories far behind.
    Backs an anti-semite.
    Its a sad day,
    For New York.

    January 15, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  15. Wake up People!

    I wish Fox had a board for their resident idiots.... Geez people, anyone that agrees with anyone all the time is nothing more than a yes man. Just because Senator Hagel doesn't blindly follow everything Israel says and does, doesn't make him anti-semetic.

    Fox News should be taken off the air, for real.

    January 15, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  16. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair wrote:

    We have and have had several allies in the area... Iran (under the Shah) was a very good ally until the 1979 revolution. Qatar, the UAE, and Bahrain are good allies. The problem really isn't so much the oil... we chose to ally with Israel at a point in our history when we were pretty much energy independent. That changed... and unfortunately at the same time, the Middle East also became more radically Islamist.... and when dealing with radical Islam, being an ally of Israel is a deal breaker.
    --------------------------------
    You need to review your history.

    All of our "allies" in the region have had some serious humanitarian and political issues, and most still do. Iraq led Saddam Hussein was our ally following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which deposed our beloved ally The Shah. Most Iranians that I spoke to at the time described life in Iran during the 1970s as being every bit as oppressive as Saddam Hussein was in Iraq during the 1990s.

    Not even Israel can escape the spotlight of guilt. Following the 1967 war they kept attempting a capriciouis policy of building settlements, which every US president rejected...that was until George W. Bush came along and turned a blind eye. People complain today about Islamic terrorists, while being completely ignorant of the fact that Israelis defined the art of modern urban terrorism throught the first half of the 20th century. Islamic terrorism began in the 1960s and 1970s as a response to the past treatment by Israel....they learned.

    January 15, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  17. The Real Tom Paine

    -Really

    Schumer.
    Gas chamber memories far behind.
    Backs an anti-semite.
    Its a sad day,
    For New York.
    ***************************
    Don't speak for me. By the way, using "gas chamber memories" would get you stomped in New York,

    January 15, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  18. Angry Citizen

    After Hagel got down on his hands and knees begging Schummer for his support. What a joke. The Jewish Lobby lives!

    January 15, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  19. sonny chapman

    Larry L.- Does Saudi Arabia & Kuwait count as "allies" in the region ? I know having US Bases over there is not popular. I would think Israel is the last place we'd want to have operational bases. There's not enough geography too.

    January 15, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  20. Fed UP

    There are too many Jews in the Senate.

    January 15, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  21. Sammy

    Funny, I always thought we were voting politicians in and that cabinet members were being picked that were good for this country and its people and not for another FOREIGN country that operates in this country as if it is it's own. Shame on our representatives. Senator Hagel is an AMERICAN patriot that has been working for the good of this country for so many years and should not be discredited just because he may not be the "best suitor" for the state of Israel. He will be working for US and not THEM for a change.

    January 15, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  22. Larry L

    @Fair is Fair
    ================================================================================================
    Agree. Thanks for the logical response. Living in that environment can make a person quite cynical. I at first thought the Arab Spring would be a game changer but not so much now. The region's problems don't appear to be as much about religion as about culture. My Armenian-American friends have told me a great deal about the Shah and our relationship with Iran during his reign. It worked for us but his leadership was likely doomed as Iran developed a middle-class. Will it happen to Saudi or will they leverage Islam to retain control?

    January 15, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  23. Olaf Big

    All right, Iranian nuclear weapons, even if they ever materialize, which is highly unlikely, pose no real threat to the U.S., no more than mythical WMD in Iraq did. However such weapons can threaten Israel. So, here we have a future U.S. secretary of defense in effect saying that he will use any means necessary to protect Israel from a potential threat from a neighboring country. Maybe Hagel should be an Israeli minister of defense instead. We need a secretary of defense who puts security of the U.S. first.

    January 15, 2013 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  24. Larry L

    @sonny chapman

    Larry L.- Does Saudi Arabia & Kuwait count as "allies" in the region ? I know having US Bases over there is not popular. I would think Israel is the last place we'd want to have operational bases. There's not enough geography too.
    =============================================================================================== Saudi and Kuwait are definitely allies – at least as far as the term goes in the region. Turkey is a good ally and Yemen, U.A.E. and Oman (others too) support our interests at some level. I was foolishly exaggerating to say Israel was our only ally in the area. Still, at times Israel seems to be the only ally Americans recognize – a mistake I just made!

    January 15, 2013 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  25. Sniffit

    GOP/Teatrolls lost this one hands down, but they'll still waste time turning the nomination hearing into a circus and opoprtunity to satb their former colleague int he back in order to get at Obama.

    January 15, 2013 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
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