Republican realists rap party over ‘preposterous’ Hagel attacks

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Maybe someday the GOP will thank President Obama for helping revive the party’s orphaned realist wing and making it more politically competitive.

A series of the party’s old guard realists—retired Gen. Colin Powell, Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage–took to the news shows Sunday to speak in favor of Chuck Hagel’s candidacy for Secretary of Defense, and more broadly to urge their party to take a more moderate approach on national security and social policies.

“I think what the Republican Party needs to do now is take a very hard look at itself and understand that the country has changed,” retired Gen. Colin Powell, who served as George W. Bush’s Secretary of State, said on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday. “The country is changing demographically, and if the Republican Party does not change along with that demographic, they’re going to be in trouble.”

The Republican Party has made a “significant shift to the right” in recent years, Powell said, describing himself as a “moderate but I’m still a Republican. … And until I voted for Mr. Obama twice, I had voted for seven straight Republican presidents.”

Powell, who chaired the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the first Gulf war, also praised Hagel as a “superbly qualified” candidate for Secretary of Defense. If confirmed, Hagel, a former two-term Republican Senator from Nebraska and twice decorated Vietnam war combat veteran, would be the first former enlisted soldier to serve as Pentagon chief.

Hagel “knows what war is and he will fight a war if it’s necessary, but he’s a guy who will do it with great deliberation and care,” Powell said.

Haass, the president of the Council of Foreign Relations and former State Department policy planning chief in the George W. Bush administration, said Sunday it’s fair to question Hagel about his policy positions. But Haass but strongly defended Hagel from what he called “preposterous” smears by hawkish foes. Most notably, Elliott Abrams, a CFR senior fellow and former Bush Middle East advisor, claimed in a controversial interview with NPR this month that Hagel is an anti-Semite–a charge refuted by among others the Jewish community of Hagel’s home state of Nebraska.

“These are loaded words that are being cast about, and I think they’re simply beyond the pale,” Haass said on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos.

The Council on Foreign Relations had previously distanced itself from Abrams’ comments, telling the Back Channel in a Jan. 8th statement that the remarks don’t represent the views of the institution. But Haass’ rebuke on Sunday went further, calling the nature of Abrams’ attack on Hagel out of bounds.

“Where I think people are going over the line is with ad hominem attacks — questioning for example whether he’s an anti-Semite,” Haass said, adding “I’ve known Chuck Hagel for more 20 years. For what it’s worth, I think that’s preposterous.” Continue reading

DNC platform: “Window for diplomacy will not remain open indefinitely”

From the Democratic National 2012 platform:, released today as the Democratic convention gets underway in Charlotte, North Carolina:

… President Obama believes that a diplomatic outcome remains the best and most enduring solution. At the same time, he has also made clear that the window for diplomacy will not remain open indefinitely and that all options – including military force – remain on the table. But we have an obligation to use the time and space that exists now to put increasing pressure on the Iranian regime to live up to its obligations and rejoin the community of nations, or face the consequences.

More at the link (page 29/40), .pdf.

(Photo: REUTERS/Jim Young.)

Romney to Israeli paper: Both Obama and I say nuclear Iran unacceptable


GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has given two interviews to Israeli newspapers ahead of his arrival in Jerusalem Saturday night.

“I would treat Israel like the friend and ally it is,” Romney told Israel Hayom, the newspaper owned by Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who has donated millions of dollars to Republican and Israeli causes. Adelson, who owns a home in Israel, may attend a $50,000 a plate fundraiser for Romney in Israel Monday.

“I cannot imagine going to the United Nations, as Obama did, and criticizing Israel in front of the world,” Romney continued. “You don’t criticize your allies in public to achieve the applause of your foes.”

So Romney learned first-hand in London Thursday, as his perceived criticism of preparations for the London Olympics got his three-nation foreign trip off to a quite rocky start.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and London mayor Boris Johnson–both conservatives–fiercely defended preparations for the London Olympic Games after Romney told NBC Wednesday he found some reports of some pre-Games snafus “disconcerting.”

“If Mitt Romney doesn’t like us, we shouldn’t care,” railed the headline from the conservative UK Telegraph Thursday. London mayor Boris Johnson later mocked Romney in front of a crowd of 60,000 in Hyde Park, asking: “Mitt Romney wants to know whether we’re ready! Are we ready?” .

Romney also gave an interview in London Thursday to Israel’s liberal Haaretz newspaper. (Being on foreign soil when the interview was conducted, he told the paper he was trying to refrain from politicizing foreign policy.)

Asked about his Iran policy, Romney said he, like President Obama, have both said that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable:The military option is the least attractive option but should not be ruled out, he said.

“President Obama has said that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable. I feel a nuclear Iran is unacceptable,” Romney told Haaretz. “The term ‘unacceptable’ continues to have a meaning: It suggests that all options will be employed to prevent that outcome.”

“I am personally committed to take every step necessary to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability,” Romney said.

In Israel, Romney will hold a breakfast fundraiser Monday (July 30) at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel. He will also meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu–an old friend from their days at the Boston Consulting Group; Israeli President Shimon Peres, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, who served as the Obama campaign’s chief of Jewish outreach in 2008.

But even with the personal ties and partisan sympathies Romney shares with Netanyahu, the powers of his White House incumbent challenger to make policy, sign bills, and grab headlines are hard to match.

On Friday, President Obama signed “a new U.S.-Israel security pact …a move that could steal some of the headlines there” as Romney arrives,” Yahoo’s Olivier Knox noted.  Indeed.

Israeli leaders and American Jewish groups applauded Obama’s action Friday.

“The Government and the people of Israel express profound gratitude to President Barack Obama on his signing of the U.S.-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act,” Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren said in a statement Friday. It “sends an unequivocal message of support to the people of Israel at a time of great uncertainty throughout the entire Middle East.”

The security pact bolsters the “crucial” US-Israel security alliance “by extending loan guarantees…authorizing American military stockpiles in Israel, and improving military and intelligence cooperation, particularly in missile defense,” the Orthodox Union’s Nathan Diament said in a press statement.

Meantime, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta plans to travel to Israel, as well as Jordan, Egypt and Tunisia next week, the Pentagon announced Thursday.

The bill signing, as well as the Pentagon chief’s Israel trip, come “as Mitt Romney nears a visit to Israel with no power to provide security aid, unlike the incumbent,” CBS’s Mark Knoller noted.

(Photo: U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks to the press following his meetings with British Prime Minister David Cameron and British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne outside 10 Downing Street in London, July 26, 2012.   REUTERS/Jason Reed.)