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Rubin: The Hagel test
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

If Republicans had nervy firebrands like the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, someone would rise up to declare, "Chuck Hagel's America is a land in which gays would be forced back in the closet and Jews would be accused of dual loyalty. Chuck Hagel's world is one in which devastating defense cuts become a goal, not a problem; we enter direct talks with the terrorist organization Hamas; and sanctions on Iran wither."

The Hagel nomination for secretary of defense is so outrageous that it becomes an easy no vote for all Republicans.

Unlike in the Democratic Party, support for the U.S.-Israel relationship has become a positive litmus test for national office in the GOP, in large part due to the intensely pro-Israel Christian conservatives.

The opposition to Hagel will be fierce. At the very least the battle will potentially suck up much of the oxygen in the Senate, put other issues like gun control on hold and threaten to become the blockbuster hearing of the Obama presidency as the Judge Robert Bork hearing was in the Reagan years.

But this is not merely about Israel or Iran policy or defense spending. It is about the acceptability of the worst expression of anti-Semitism, the accusation of disloyalty.

There is no other meaning to Hagel's phrase "Jewish lobby." The declaration from Hagel that he is not "the senator from Israel" is again a direct attack on Jews' fidelity to the United States.

For decades this kind of language has been gaining acceptance in Europe. But never in America.

In elevating Hagel, the president in a real and troubling way moves us closer to Western Europe.

Indeed the most disturbing aspect of Hagel's nomination is not his impact on policy (President Obama will continue to blunder), but what it says about the president's willingness to embrace a man espousing the world's oldest hatred.

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