The lobby that does not intimidate

Transcript of some of the more surreal portions of Chuck Hagel's vetting as Secretary of Defense, courtesy of Americans for Peace Now: 

Wicker versus Hagel re: Jewish Lobby [starting at 03:02:10]
Wicker:  What you said was the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here. This was in a book -- an interview that you gave to Aaron David Miller. And you said, "I've always argued against some of the dumb things they do, because I don't think it's in the interest of Israel." Here's my problem with -- with your position at this point. You have corrected the term "Jewish lobby." And I assume now the correct term would be "Israel lobby" or "Israeli lobby."
Do you still stand by your statement that they succeed in this town because of intimidation, and that it amounts to causing us to do dumb things?  Because I want to say this, Senator, you -- you are here today as a potential secretary of defense, and it would seem to me that however you characterize them, you have suggested that there is an effective lobby out there, whether you call them the "Jewish lobby," the "Israeli lobby" or the "Israel lobby," and that they succeed in doing dumb things through intimidation, and that U.S. policy has been the wrong approach because the intimidation has worked.
So when you talked about the Jewish lobby, were you talking about AIPAC? Were you talking about NORPAC? Were you talking about Christians United for Israel? And do you still believe that their success in this town is because of intimidation and that they are, as you stated, "urging upon our government that we do dumb things"?
Hagel:  …I've already said I regret referencing the Jewish lobby. I should have said "pro-Israel lobby." I think it's the only time on the record that I've ever said that. Now, you all have done a lot of work with my record, and yes, it's appropriate, by the way. Any  nominee's record, what he or she thinks, says, done, absolutely. I was on your side of the dais for 12 years, so I understand that and that responsibility. So, I don't have any problem with that.  So I've already noted that I -- that I should have used another term and I'm sorry and I regret it.
On the use of “intimidation,” I should have used "influence," I think would have been more appropriate. We were talking about in that book, and you've evidently read it, Aaron David Miller's book. And by the way, it's a book, "The Much Too Promised Land." He has spoken out directly over the last few weeks, written an op-ed about my position because it's gotten some attention, as you've noted, and been quite favorable to me, and said much of that was taken out of context, and he was "offended by it." Those were his -- his words. Those of you who know something about Aaron David Miller know that he is Jewish. He is a highly respected individual who was counsel to presidents and secretaries of state.  He also says in that interview, which is a fairly short interview, he mentioned that I am a strong supporter of Israel. That's in the interview.
So, I think that says something. I -- I should not have said "dumb" or "stupid," because I understand, appreciate there are different views on these things. We were talking about Israel. We were talking about the Middle East. We weren't talking about Armenia or Turkey or the banking influence or Chamber of Commerce -- Commerce influence. That was what the context of my comments were about…
Graham vs. Hagel re: Jewish Lobby [starting at 04:17:20]
Graham: … You said “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here. I am not an Israeli senator. I am a United States senator. This pressure makes us to do dumb things at times.” You said the Jewish lobby should not have been -- that term shouldn't have been used; it should've been some other term.  Name one person in your opinion who's intimidated by the Israeli lobby in United States Senate?
Hagel: Well, first...
Graham: Name one.
Hagel: I do not know.
Graham: Well why would you say it?
Hagel: I didn't have in mind a specific person.
Graham: Do you agreed that it is a provocative statement - that I can’t think of a more provocative thing to say about the relationship between the United States and Israel, and the Senate or the Congress than what you said. Name one dumb thing we have been goaded into doing because of the pressure from the Israeli or Jewish lobby?
Hagel: I have already stated that I regret the terminology...
Graham: But you said, back then, it makes us do dumb things. You can't name one senator intimidated, now give me one example of the dumb things that we're pressure to do up here.
Hagel: We were talking in that interview about the Middle East, about positions, about Israel...
Graham: So give me an example of where we have been intimidated by the Israeli-Jewish lobby to do something dumb regarding the Middle East, Israel, or anywhere else.
Hagel: I cannot give you an example.
Graham: Thank you. Do you agree with me you shouldn't have said something like that?
Hagel: Yes I do, I've already said that.



Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region,