The Weekly Standard has a letter from Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) to Chuck Hagel, which finishes with a list of questions that likely presages the grilling Hagel will get Thursday from Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
I’ve cut and pasted Vitter’s list below below, but one of the most vexing questions the Louisiana senator asks of the defense secretary nominee is in the text of the letter.
It concerns the letter that Hagel wrote earlier this month to assure Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) of his pro-Israel, tough on Iran bona fides:
Separately on Iran, I am struck by what is missing in your letter to Senator Boxer – that being any comment regarding the need for a credible military threat to deter Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.
Boxer and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have said Hagel has made such a commitment — to a credible military threat as a last resort — in conversation. But it struck me, too, that he did not commit this to writing.
Vitter also bluntly notes in his text that Hagel has not apologized for criticisms of Israel during the 2006 Lebanon war, as he has for his remarks on the "Jewish lobby."
Fair enough — I’ve also noticed this, and wondered why the Hagel team has tried to pass off as an apology what is actually Hagel’s contextualization of his criticism of Israel’s actions in the Second Lebanon War.
But Vitter might also explain why Hagel should apologize for his reservations about that war. Some of these were shared at the time by then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and eventually by the Israeli commission of inquiry into the war.
Below are the questions. The biggest mystery is no. 4: Why did Hagel put a hold on Iran sanctions Democrats — including then-candidate Barack Obama — favored and shaped?
1. Why you voted against renewal of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act in 2001?
2. Why you voted against the Iran Counter Proliferation Act in 2007?
3. Why you voted against the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA) in 2008?
4. Why you put a hold on CISADA in 2008 after it cleared the Senate Banking Committee over your opposition?
5. Clarify the apparent contradiction between your comments to the Lincoln Journal Star last week (which mirrored your 2001 statement to the American Iranian Council that you oppose sanctions against Iran because they “isolate us”) and your letter to Senator Boxer this week?
6. Provide documentation why you think sanctions should only be tied to, “Iran’s continued rejection of diplomatic overtures” and not to the status of its nuclear program?
7. Are you willing to issue a statement that you believe that the European Union should designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization?