Tom Friedman, in this morning's New York Times, endorses Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense. Friedman finds it "disgusting" that Hagel has been "smeared as an Israel hater at best" by his detractors (some neoconservatives). But Friedman's stinging rejoinder to the anti-Hagel campaign isn't motived just by revulsion; he believes calling Hagel anti-Israel is, in addition to being sleazy, 180 degrees away from the truth:
The only thing standing between Israel and national suicide any more is America and its willingness to tell Israel the truth. But most U.S. senators, policy makers and Jews prefer to stick their heads in the sand, because confronting Israel is so unpleasant and politically dangerous. Hagel at least cares enough about Israel to be an exception.
Friedman's support isn't the only boost Hagel's candidacy has gotten in the last 24 hours. Last night the Washington Post published a letter in support of Hagel signed by four former national security advisers -- James L. Jones, Brent Scowcroft, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Frank Carlucci. They write:
Mr. Hagel is a man of unshakable integrity and wisdom who has served his country in the most distinguished manner in peace and war. He is a rare example of a public servant willing to rise above partisan politics to advance the interests of the United States and its friends and allies.
Note the bipartisan cast. These people held the top White House national security post in, respectively, the Obama, George H.W. Bush, Carter, and Reagan administrations. And they're not alone. Hagel has also been endorsed by a slew of former U.S. ambassadors, from both Democratic and Republican administrations, including no fewer than five who have served as ambassador to Israel.
The Friedman column and the Washington Post letter come at an important time for Hagel. Some observers were starting to think his candidacy was on life support.
To be sure, the main reason for this judgment didn't make any sense: A couple of Sunday talk shows decided to invite as their guests legislators who were guaranteed not to be supportive of Hagel, and then when they said non-supportive things, this was billed as news. (Lindsey Graham sides with neocons! Joe Lieberman sides with neocons! Chuck Schumer is non-commital! Dog bites man!) But never mind -- once the conventional wisdom hardens it hardens, and this piece of conventional wisdom was starting to gel. So the interventions by Friedman and those Democratic and Republican heavyweights were timely.