Lanny Davis, the former counsel to Bill Clinton, tells Newsmax TV in an exclusive interview that some of President Barack Obama's cabinet nominees are likely to face an uphill nomination battle, particularly Chuck Hagel, his proposed Secretary of Defense, who has a long road ahead of him because of his comments concerning Israel and what he referred to as the “Jewish lobby.”
Davis, who served in the Clinton administration from 1996-1998 and worked with President George W. Bush, said he believes Hagel owes Jewish-Americans an explanation.
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“There are a lot of Jews and non-Jews who support Israel,” Davis said. “It’s also offensive because it indicates a kind of generic categorization of Jews that really go back to the anti-Semitic years of dual loyalty that Jews were accused of.”
Davis said it's likely that Hagel will be asked to explain his “Jewish lobby” comment in the Senate confirmation hearings.
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However, the Newsmax contributor said he thinks the former Republican senator is an honorable man who is not anti-Semitic.
“It’s possible to be critical of Israel and to be critical of a lobby that lobbies in support of Israel without saying it’s (a) ‘Jewish lobby,’” explained Davis. “He is mixing it up that he can’t be critical of Israeli policies in some respects that’s fair, while not attributing all Israel ‘lobbyists’ as Jews, which is terribly offensive, even to people such as myself.”
Davis said he's surprised that Hagel has yet to address the remark since he already apologized for anti-gay comments regarding homosexuals in the military.
Obama has faced sharp criticism over his Middle-East policy, particularly from critics who claim he hasn’t gone far enough in supporting Israel.
Davis said the president is entitled to pick cabinet members who reflect his views¸ and he has no doubt that both the president and Hagel support Israel.
Meanwhile, Davis noted that Hagel has drawn support from the likes of former Secretary of State Colin Powell and retired Gen. Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA.
While Objections to Hagel’s nomination have been raised by Republican heavyweight Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, Davis said he believes that Hagel ultimately will be confirmed by 70 or 80 votes in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
"Every senator has every right to have doubts about a nominee of a president and to ask that nominee to explain," he said. "It’s a very, very high bar; I think Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham would agree. Before you allow the president to choose the Cabinet of his choice."
Davis said that Hagel will most likely also be asked if he believes that sanctions should be applied in the case of Iran and whether he considers Hezbollah, Hamas and the revolutionary guard to be terrorists.
"He’s got to answer those questions but I think on the record he’ll probably correct his mistake on 'Jewish lobby,'” said Davis.
He added that some of Obama's other nominees may also face tough questions under the white-hot lights of the confirmation process.
He said that McCain and Graham are likely to raise the issue of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Behghazi during the confirmation hearing for John Brennan, who is Obama's nominee to head the CIA.
"Everybody, Sen. Graham, Sen. McCain, myself, who have written about this are extremely upset about what happened in Benghazi in the absence of security and the death of four American," he said. "But it’s real hard to get to the bottom of what the facts are in that very confusing situation. But to the extent that Mr. Brennan knows those facts of course he should be asked and should explain."
In the case of Jack Lew, Obama's choice to replace Tim Geithner as treasury secretary, Davis said he has not faced much criticism at all with one possible exception.
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Having known Lew for at least 20 years, Davis acknowledged that the nominee has the worst signature ever, as Obama himself pointed out.
“But he’s just a truly nice guy and incredibly good on budget issues, maybe one of the great living experts on the federal budget,” observed Davis. “Most importantly, he understands the political process having worked in the White House chief of staff recently and he’s very well qualified.”
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