So if Hagel is confirmed as defense secretary — and as of now, I believe he should be — I hope he does more than make an apology on the use of the “Jewish lobby” expression (as he already has regarding his anti-gays-in-the-military comments in past years). He needs to show that he understands, first, why he is factually wrong to describe a “Jewish lobby”; second, he needs to show greater sensitivity to the American Jewish community because he understands that expression evokes anti-Semitism through the ages.
On policy, he should explain why he opposed describing the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization even though it is a matter of record that they have financed terrorist operations against civilians in Israel; and why he favors Israel’s negotiating with Hamas, despite Hamas’s refusal to renounce terrorism and the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state.
I believe Hagel is a decent man, with an outstanding record of integrity as a U.S. senator and member of the Armed Forces. He should address his use of the “Jewish lobby” expression directly and candidly — not only to reassure American Jews but also to clear up doubts that could hinder his effectiveness as secretary of defense.
Lanny Davis, the principal in the Washington law firm of Lanny J. Davis & Associates, which specializes in legal crisis management, served as President Clinton’s special counsel (1996-98) and as a member of President George W. Bush’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (2006-07). He currently serves as special counsel to Dilworth Paxson and is a partner with former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele in Purple Nation Solutions, a public affairs-strategic communications company. He is the author of the forthcoming book Crisis Tales – Five Rules for Handling Scandal in Business, Politics and Life, to be published by Simon & Schuster. He can be followed on Twitter @LannyDavis