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My Take: 'What would George Washington do' about Chuck Hagel?
January 17th, 2013
02:32 PM ET

My Take: 'What would George Washington do' about Chuck Hagel?

Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

(CNN) - As I have read recent neoconservative diatribes against President Obama’s nominee for secretary of defense,  former Sen. Chuck Hagel including charges that he is an anti-Semite and a full-page advertisement attacking him in The New York Times on Thursday I have asked myself, “What would George Washington do?"

In his Farewell Address, published on September 19, 1796, Washington offered his hard-won wisdom on such matters as church and state, partisan politics, and foreign policy.

On foreign policy, Washington declared our independence from friends and foes alike, warning against the “evils” produced by “permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others.” To love or hate another nation too deeply, he observed, “is in some degree to become a slave ... to its animosity or to its affection.”

Even before Obama officially nominated Hagel to be secretary of defense, the Vietnam War veteran was being attacked not just for displaying insufficient affection toward Israel but for allegedly being an anti-Semite. On December 13, an unnamed Senate aide told The Weekly Standard that Hagel exhibited “the worst kind of anti-Semitism there is” when he said in 2006 that the "Jewish lobby" in Washington tends to "intimidate" lawmakers. On January 7, Elliott Abrams of the Council on Foreign Relations told NPR that Hagel “appears to be ... frankly an anti-Semite," based on what Abrams described as an insufficiently friendly attitude toward the Jewish community in Nebraska.

Hagel has since apologized to lawmakers for the "Jewish lobby" remark, winning the support of some key Jewish lawmakers.

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I understand why some lawmakers and lobbyists might disagree with comments Hagel once made about the wisdom of going to war with Iraq or about the prospect of going to war with Iran. I understand as well why some might take issue with statements he has made about Hezbollah or Hamas or pre-emptive war. That is the stuff of politics, and I say have at it.

But as we as a nation ponder whether Hagel is an appropriate choice for secretary of defense, we need to remember that he is being asked to come to work for the United States.

It is fine for individual Americans to love other countries — for Indian-Americans to love India, for Greek-Americans to love Greece, for Brazilian-Americans to love Brazil. And I am sure that Ed Koch and Alan Dershowitz and other signers of Thursday’s New York Times ad attacking Chuck Hagel love Israel.

That is their right.

But it is not right for the United States as a nation to love any other country. Such love can make us feel we ought to endorse everything that country’s leaders do, or to attack as un-American anyone who says something even mildly critical of its leadership’s policies.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

I don’t know much about Chuck Hagel, and I don’t particularly care whether he becomes our next secretary of defense. But as we ponder his nomination, we should remember the words of our first president, one of our greatest, particularly his observation that "the nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest."

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Foreign policy • Israel • Israel • Leaders • Middle East • Military • Obama • Politics • United States

soundoff (159 Responses)
  1. Science

    Free speech helps to educate the masses..............POLITICIANS TOO !

    Hey James Madison................religion has none it looks like.............with the comments on this blog.

    The Big question is ETHICS ! does religion have any ?

    The Ethics of Resurrecting Extinct Species

    Apr. 8, 2013 — At some point, scientists may be able to bring back extinct animals, and perhaps early humans, raising questions of ethics and environmental disruption.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130408165955.htm

    The fact...............the earth is to old ...........time to EVOLVE !..................Creationists...........ID believers and christians !

    Ancient Earth Crust Stored in Deep Mantle

    Apr. 24, 2013 — Scientists have long believed that lava erupted from certain oceanic volcanoes contains materials from the early Earth's crust. But decisive evidence for this phenomenon has proven elusive. New research from a team including Carnegie's Erik Hauri demonstrates that oceanic volcanic rocks contain samples of recycled crust dating back to the Archean era 2.5 billion years ago. Their work is published in Nature.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130424132705.htm

    Maybe they should not have created the wedge !!!

    The wedge strategy is a political and social action plan authored by the Discovery Insti-tute, the hub of the intelligent design movement. The strategy was put forth in a Discovery Insti-tute manifesto known as the Wedge Docu-ment,[1] which describes a broad social, political, and academic agenda whose ultimate goal is to defeat materialism, naturalism, evolution, and "reverse the stifling materialist world view and replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic
    convictions.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedge_strategy

    Dover Trial Transcripts............................................. FACTS.

    Below are the complete transcripts from the Dover Trial. Thanks to our friends at the National Center for Science Education for helping us fill in the missing transcripts.

    http://www.aclupa.org/legal/legaldocket/intelligentdesigncase/dovertrialtranscripts.htm

    Education works for children

    Where do morals come from?.............the answer is not the bible read and find out !

    By Kelly Murray, CNN

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/04/12/where-do-morals-come-from/#comments

    Gravity is not up for debate ! ............E = mc2..........(U–Pb).................two math formulas..........that do not lie or sin !!!...

    Peace.......

    May 6, 2013 at 8:57 am |
  2. Science

    Free speech helps educate the masses................POLITICIANS too !

    Where do morals come from?

    By Kelly Murray, CNN

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/04/12/where-do-morals-come-from/#comments

    Gravity is not up for debate !

    BY the way ...................Splat goes a fairy in the sky !...............bye bye tinker bell !

    Einstein's Gravity Theory Passes Toughest Test Yet..............................E = mc2..........(U–Pb).................two math formulas.

    Apr. 25, 2013 — A strange stellar pair nearly 7,000 light-years from Earth has provided physicists with a unique cosmic laboratory for studying the nature of gravity. The extremely strong gravity of a massive neutron star in orbit with a companion white dwarf star puts competing theories of gravity to a test more stringent than any available before

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130425142250.htm

    Hey James Madison................religion has none it looks like.............with the comments on this blog.

    The Big question is ETHICS ! does religion have any ?

    The Ethics of Resurrecting Extinct Species

    Apr. 8, 2013 — At some point, scientists may be able to bring back extinct animals, and perhaps early humans, raising questions of ethics and environmental disruption.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130408165955.htm

    April 30, 2013 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |

    May 1, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |

    Dinosaur Egg Study Supports Evolutionary Link Between Birds and Dinosaurs: How Troodon Likely Hatched Its Young

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130418104324.htm

    And NO ANGELS the pope KICKED them OFF the TEAM last year !

    From Soup to Cells—the Origin of Life

    http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/IIE2aOriginoflife.shtml

    the wrong path is Adam and Eve !

    Human Y Chromosome Much Older Than Previously Thought

    Mar. 4, 2013 — The discovery and analysis of an extremely rare African American Y chromosome pushes back the time of the most recent common ancestor for the Y chromosome lineage tree to 338,000 years ago. This time predates the age of the oldest known anatomically modern human fossils.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130305145821.htm

    No god(s) needed or required to graduate from public schools in the US

    Remember : Adam had to POKE himself hard with his OWN BONE to create Eve.

    No god(s) needed................... Old. DNA works..................also catches crooks !

    Ancient DNA Reveals Europe's Dynamic Genetic History

    Apr. 23, 2013 — Ancient DNA recovered from a series of skeletons in central Germany up to 7,500 years old has been used to reconstruct the first detailed genetic history of modern Europe.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130423134037.htm

    Ca-nabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®) – National Cancer Insti-tute

    http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/cannabis/.../page4

    Mar 21, 2013 – [1,2] These plant-derived compounds may be referred to as phytocannabinoids. ... have a protective effect against the development of certain types of tumors. ... In lung cancer cell lines, CBD upregulated ICAM-1, leading to ...

    Good stuff !

    The fact...............the earth is to old for this nonsemse ! Time to EVOLVE !

    Ancient Earth Crust Stored in Deep Mantle

    Apr. 24, 2013 — Scientists have long believed that lava erupted from certain oceanic volcanoes contains materials from the early Earth's crust. But decisive evidence for this phenomenon has proven elusive. New research from a team including Carnegie's Erik Hauri demonstrates that oceanic volcanic rocks contain samples of recycled crust dating back to the Archean era 2.5 billion years ago. Their work is published in Nature.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130424132705.htm

    For what...................... ? Make sure to read what the pope said !

    Where do morals come from?

    By Kelly Murray, CNN

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/

    Learning is fun with facts.......................... and facts work when teaching children.

    Atheist Prof. Peter Higgs: Stop calling Higgs boson the ‘God particle’

    Professor Peter Higgs said recently that there is no God and so people should stop referring to the theoretical partial that
    bears his name as the “God particle.”

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/04/08/atheist-prof-peter-higgs-stop-calling-higgs-bosen-the-god-particle/

    Pope praises science, but insists God created world updated Thur October 28, 2010
    Stephen Hawking is wrong, Pope Benedict XVI said Thursday – God did create the universe. The pope didn't actually mention the world-famous scientist, who argues in a book published last month that the laws of physics show there is no need for a supreme... \

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/10/28/pope-praises-science-but-insists-god-created-world/

    Science

    Heaven is 'a fairy story,' scientist Stephen Hawking says updated Tue May 17, 2011
    By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor The concept of heaven or any kind of afterlife is a "fairy story," famed British scientist Stephen Hawking said in a newspaper interview this week. "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when...

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/05/17/heaven-is-a-fairy-story-scientist-stephen-hawking-says/

    April 7th, 2012

    08:32 PM ET

    The Jesus debate: Man vs. myth

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/04/07/the-jesus-debate-man-vs-myth/comment-page-137/#comment-2281915

    Make sure to read comments

    April 18, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |

    Breaking News

    NASA: Three planets found are some of best candidates so far for habitable worlds outside our solar system.

    http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/18/us/planet-discovery/index.html

    NASA: Mars could have supported life

    Star Dust we are

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWdU_px9ApE&w=640&h=390]

    Holy Hallucinations 35

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XTCRdC8Dlo&w=640&h=390]

    The ORIGIN story is bullsh-it...............so is the bible............... nasty !

    From Soup to Cells—the Origin of Life

    http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/IIE2aOriginoflife.shtml

    BBC. Planet of the Apemen. Battle for Earth 1. Ho-mo Erectus

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUliLKSJ4bQ&w=640&h=390]

    BACKFILL on E =mc2.....

    Einstein letter, set for auction, shows scientist challenging idea of God, being 'chosen'

    By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

    Decades before atheist scientist and author Richard Dawkins called God a "delusion," one world-renowned physicist – Albert Einstein – was weighing in on faith matters with his own strong words.

    “The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends,” Einstein wrote in German in a 1954 letter that will be auctioned on eBay later this month. "No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.”

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/category/culture-science/

    May 4, 2013 at 6:47 am | Report abuse |

    Peace

    May 4, 2013 at 8:34 am |
  3. Independent

    It is time for the United States of America to make a second declaration of independence. This time from we'll celebrate our independence from Israel!

    January 31, 2013 at 9:00 am |
  4. Douglas

    Remember the Liberty!

    Israel is not what you think it is.

    They spy on us today and killed our sailors when they attacked the USS Liberty yesterday.

    Jonathan Pollard rot in Hell!

    Go Chuck Hagel!...Go Obama!...America #1 for God and Country!

    January 20, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
    • Rivka

      What the hell are you talking about?

      February 17, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
  5. donner

    Hey you stinking right wing filth. Where is your Mormon messiah now? Enjoy four more years of Obama. You earned it.

    January 20, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
  6. BHS66

    Of course Hagel is antisemitic, no thoughtful person in public life would say what he has said if he didn't believe it. What's interesting is how Obama seems to always get a pass. Obama has to be an anti semite too! If he wasn't he would not have nominated Hagel in the first place.

    January 20, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • MOCaseA

      So by your logic, that fact that I voted for a mayor who tends to have, lets call them less than enamored views of the African American communities in the area, thus makes me a racist? Even though his opponent was so arch-conservative I'd be surprised if he wore underwear. No, sometimes you have to support the RIGHT decision, and not the popular one. That is part of leadership and being a grown-up. And lumping people together without a firm understanding, or knowledge, of their motives is like trying to say that since all sand is sand, it must be composed of the same material.

      January 30, 2013 at 3:17 am |
  7. Pravda

    Did you see that Biden thinks he is the President now? The duo has to be the dumbest in the history of America.

    January 19, 2013 at 11:59 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.