The newly discovered 2008 video of Chuck Hagel has drawn attention, as it should, for his comments dismissing the U.S. even “thinking” about acting militarily against Iran, and for his seeming to be more concerned about Israel's nuclear weapons than Iran's.
But there's another comment of Hagel’s in the video that deserves notice. In the course of praising Aaron David Miller's book on the Middle East, Hagel says, "And if you want to read something that is very, very enlightening, this guy he’s getting tremendous reviews on it. He’s Jewish. He worked in the State Department, worked for Baker, worked for Albright, I think he’s worked for four secretaries of state, different Democrats, Republicans."
"He's Jewish." Isn't there something creepy and disquieting about that interjection?
Why does Hagel call attention to the religion of the American diplomat whose book he's praising? I suppose the answer is this: If you're Chuck Hagel, and you see yourself as fighting the "Jewish lobby," you think you gain credibility by identifying an author whom you like as Jewish. Hagel cites Miller's Judaism as a kind of talisman to preemptively ward off criticism. But wouldn't it be good to have a secretary of defense whose first thought isn't the religious affiliation of Americans who participate in foreign policy debates?