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.

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

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. Sense0326

    Guys I heard there were free nuts on this thread. Is it true?

    January 17, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
    • niknak

      No not free, but there are nuts here.

      January 17, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
    • sam

      This thread is free teabags. Nuts are one thread back.

      January 17, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
    • Free Nuts

      Them nuts roaming all over today. are they not.

      January 17, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
    • Free Nuts

      Agree sam all the nuts got stuck in a big rut on the speed read page for today.

      January 17, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
    • Leppo, Lesser Squirrel-Cousin of the recently-deceased Immortal Squirrel God of Waffle Irons, Bippy

      Even a squirrel don't want them nuts.

      January 17, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
  2. Rational Libertarian

    Is Israel the conservative equivalent of white guilt?

    January 17, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • niknak

      No, it is just that the money the Jewish lobby doles out makes our lawmakers cower.
      I wish we would grow a pair and stop funding Isreal, and the middle east in general.
      And start closing all these unneccassary military bases we have around the world.
      I read we have over 1200 military bases and installations spread out over this globe.
      Lets start worring about this country and rebuilding it, instead of playing big brother to everyone.

      I see the hippie apocalypse has not gotten you yet rational libtard.
      Hang tough bro.......

      January 17, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      It's always about the insults with you liberal pr!cks, isn't it? Couldn't you just have made your very valid point and leave it at that?

      January 17, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      maybe evangelical protestant guilt?

      January 17, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
    • niknak

      Wow, you are just like the fundies, no sense of humor.
      I was teasing you, from our previous posts where you indicated you have a distaste for hippies.
      And libtard is just messing with you screen name.
      If you notice, I do that with all the posters here, fundies or not.

      Like the hippies say, "just chill man....."

      January 18, 2013 at 8:54 am |

    hindu filthy Zionism= Nazism =hinduism,racism.

    January 17, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
    • sam

      moron idiot idiocy = you = boring racist jackass

      January 17, 2013 at 6:59 pm |
  4. Sam Yaza

    speak out against Israels treatment of Palestinians and your an anti Semite, never mind Palestinians are Semites, if you don't support Israels genocide your an anti Semite, even i got called it at a AIPEC rally with my Jewish girlfriend handcuffed next to me,... lets get something strait i love the Jews, its a fetish i know, but i am Samyaza.

    January 17, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
  5. Salero21

    Good Lord in Heaven!

    How in the world has the US come to this? That whether a candidate to hold a cabinet post is or is not a kiss-up to Judaism, Zionism or any other FOREIGN Ideology or country, is his/her litmus test?

    The Fact that some or all "lawmakers" can be intimidated by this or that or that other lobby or pressure group, is in itself a very bad sign that we have ended up with the wrong type of Government or all of the wrong kind of leaders!

    January 17, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Salero21", but "Lord" and "Heaven" are elements of mythology, therefore your qualitative assertions are unfounded.

      January 17, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
    • Salero21

      I don't recall asking for a fools opinion! 😛

      January 17, 2013 at 11:56 pm |
    • sam stone

      "I don't recall asking for a fools opinion"

      Yet, you offered one

      January 18, 2013 at 7:48 am |
  6. truth be told

    Hey "in santa" you want proof? Guess what you are !

    January 17, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
    • Gir

      A sharp contrast to the mentally-diseased, boneheaded, religionist t-w.erp that you are?

      January 17, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • Free Nuts

      Free nuts all around today.

      January 17, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • Ayn Rand

      Did your boyfriend upset you today?

      January 17, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      A seeker of truth – so you don't qualify.

      January 17, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
  7. Milton


    January 17, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  8. truth be told

    It is important to recognize that any comment by any so called atheist is a lie. Understanding this simple Truth allows normal morally decent people to evaluate atheists for what they really are, liars, cheats and given the opportunity mass murderers.

    January 17, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      There are such things as morally good atheists.

      January 17, 2013 at 4:46 pm |

      Atheist is other wise known as a secular, a self centered, denier of truth absolute by admission, one has to wonder about mental capacity of followers of hindu Mithra ism, racist savior ism, called Christianity to be proud gentle ,slave of a hindu Jew, filthy secular in his life.

      January 17, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • truth be told

      Thanks uncouth swain for providing proof to my statement.

      January 17, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • Really??

      seriously, what are you getting from posting your rediculous lies again and again and agian?

      January 17, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      So tbt you really need to change your handle or start telling the truth. Where is the evidence for your outrageous claims?

      January 17, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • truth be told

      It is important that all morally decent people everywhere be aware of what consti tutes atheism. It helps all normal folks put all your atheist bs blog comments where they belong, that is lower than diseased sewage waste.

      January 17, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
    • Pete

      "any comment by any so called atheist is a lie."

      more lies from the xtians 109!

      January 17, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • Reality

      A prayer just for truth be told:

      The Apostles' / Agnostics’ Creed 2013 (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

      Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
      ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.


      (References used are available upon request.)

      January 17, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
    • truth be told

      Guess what "in santa..." you are the proof . So called atheists confronted with the Truth about their lying scurry to defend themselves like rats or coc kroaches exposed to the light.

      January 17, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
    • Free Nuts

      Free nuts all around today.

      January 17, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      tbt, so provide evidence.

      January 17, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
    • Pete

      Every atheist in the world has the opportunity to commit mass murder everyday, and yet they don't. So once again you are proven a liar, but that is no surprise to anyone.

      January 18, 2013 at 10:16 am |

    Nothing else can define truth absolute, foundation of American consti tution , but words of Gorge Washington,

    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.”

    Not to be in Hinduism violation of truth absolute in relation ship to others, obey truth absolute with other's, even one is one of your own. hind hell with hindu Judaism, filthy self center ism, secular ism and hindu Jew's, criminal secular s, nothing suits better for america or any one else to be in following of truth absolute God, than to be a hindu gentile, filthy slve of a hindu Jew, criminal secular, son of hindu Lucifer, secular, denier of truth absolute.

    January 17, 2013 at 4:25 pm |

      To hang hindu Jew filthy secular son of satan, secular is duty of a truth full, there is no reason for a good human to hate it.

      January 17, 2013 at 4:35 pm |


      January 17, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
  10. ɹǝɥdo┴

    Good afternoon. Does anyone have any questions about Satanism today?

    January 17, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
    • Anderson

      Are you one? You seem to be hanging upside down

      January 17, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
    • ɹǝɥdo┴

      I never hang. That does appear to be a specialty of the poster below, however.

      January 17, 2013 at 4:15 pm |

      Keep on hanging in your place Satan, self centered, secular, your sibling's called hindu Jew's, criminal secular s are spreading your hindu Lucifer ism, secularism, very well.

      January 17, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • End Religion

      What investigation have you done to prove that Satan is groovier than That Almighty Slack-Jawed Yokel in Heaven?
      [begin dueling banjos]

      January 17, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
    • Reasonably

      Nope – it's as ridiculous and fanciful as it's counterpart. Thanks for playing.

      January 17, 2013 at 11:08 pm |
  11. Chad

    Surprise, surprise. Prothero the atheist committed to the destruction of Christianity is anti-Israel.

    No doubt "the whole problem in the middle east is Israeli aggression, and if they would just get along with everyone we would have peace".


    The proof, simply ask yourself two questions:
    1. If all the non-Israelis in the middle east were to destroy their weapons tomorrow, what would happen?
    2. If all the Israelis were to destroy their weapons tomorrow, what would happen?

    1. Peace
    2. All Israelis would be dead within 72 hours.

    now.. what does that tell you?

    January 17, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
    • Douglas

      "1. If all the non-Israelis in the middle east were to destroy their weapons tomorrow, what would happen?"

      They would be dead within 72 hours.

      January 17, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
    • Chad

      no one believes that Israel would attack unarmed neighbors.

      January 17, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
    • midwest rail

      It is, quite simply, more complex than that and you know it. There are militarists in the Israeli government just like any other government. They would assume it was trick, and insist on a preemptive strike. To pretend that magically there would be peace is absurd.

      January 17, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care


      You're more delusional than usual if you believe that.

      January 17, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
    • Observer

      Excellent point! Chad.

      January 17, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • Free Nuts

      Free nuts all around today.

      January 17, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
    • End Religion


      January 17, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • Akira

      What research have you done to back up your claim that Stephen Prothero doen't believe the God of Israel doesn't exist?

      January 17, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
    • Akira

      Correction: that should read that Stephen Prothero doesn't believe that the God of Israel exists?

      January 17, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      just as Zionism and Palestine were a metaphorical albatross for the British between the world wars, Zionism and Israel are an albatross for the US in the post war era.

      Just how many times has that patch of desert been fought over? Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it.

      January 17, 2013 at 8:37 pm |
    • Chad

      @GOPer "Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it."
      @Chad "agreed
      – 1948 armies of four Arab countries—Egypt, Syria, Transjordan and Iraq attacked Israel.
      – Arab nationalists refuse to accept Israel and call for it's destruction
      – 1950s Israel frequently attacked by Palestinian fedayeen, Egypt attempts to close Suez to Israeli shipping
      – 1960s, 1970s, Palestinian groups launched a wave of attacksagainst Israeli and Jewish targets around the world, including a massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich
      – 1967 6 day war in response to Arab mobilization
      – 1973, as Jews were observing Yom Kippur, the Egyptian and Syrian armies launched a surprise attack against Israeli forces in the Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights.

      and on
      and on
      and on

      see a pattern yet?

      January 17, 2013 at 9:16 pm |
    • Grundig Glasswerks

      Chad's homies give him a shasta blasta each time he posts.

      January 17, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
  12. Sanity Test

    For those of us followers of the Covenant of God given to Moses who appreciated the law, I thought you might appreciate this sanity test.

    Can you all please help me find any errors in this sanity test? Also, practice creating them to increase health to the USA.

    Sanity Test: A sanity test is a question about objective consensual reality or the verifiable scientific, mathematical truth of reality for an individual person. It is not a game or contest which requires another person. It favors nobody and does not pick sides with people, groups, parties, or ideals. It is an individual test without other people and without bell curves.

    Read the facts and answer the question

    1) A violator of law causes damages (losses)
    2) A victim forgives violator without repayment of damages (losses)
    3) A judge interprets crime as not having damaged society and not causing punitive damages.

    If the victim forgives damages, the judge is wrong. There is a loss to society.

    You, likely, felt an emotional pressure or force in your mind when you read "If the victim forgives damages, the judge is wrong"

    Why is the judge wrong?

    January 17, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      #3 does not automatically follow from #1. Therfore there might not have been a crime.

      January 17, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
    • lol??

      ".....consensual reality......." is carnal. It feels gud.

      January 17, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
  13. lol??

    Is he from chitown? Gotta have more mobsters from chitown. Even Hillary was from da machine.

    January 17, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
  14. Which God?

    "What would..." and "what if...", is nothing more than shear speculation. It brings no facts to the forefornt upon which to make any type of decision. In short, you might as well say "what if my dog was psyhic? What if lionlylamb could write coherentl? What if...? Makes noe sense that this guy wrote this, and then got paid.

    January 17, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
  15. dreamer96

    Ops George Washington was also a member of the Free Masons, wore symbols at his swearing into office as President, and believed in a supreme being...just disagreed with many churches of his time of what that supreme being was....He was a believer in free thinking, rational thought, free exchange of views, ...something the ridge conservative religious groups of his days did not like, or support There was no tolerance of anything viewed against the Bible .....

    Also note ..

    That on his death bed..George Washington did not request a last rights as a Christian, or summon a Christian Minister ...What does that tell you...He was comfortable with his passing...and did not need the crutch of a local Church's religious figure head at his bedside for his last breath on Earth...telling him he was forgiven for his Earthly sins....

    January 17, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Plus he was a drunk (even made booze) was a terrorist by todays definition, was a slave holder and might of even had wooden teeth.

      But he DID know about crazy religious people all right!

      January 17, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • Todd

      And he was an adulterer.

      January 17, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
  16. Reasonably

    The Jewish lobby does intimidate those in DC. Does me saying that make me anti-semite? So, saying that the Wal-Mart lobby intimidates those in DC makes me anti Wal-Mart-ite?

    Utter bollocks. As is this article being in Belief.

    January 17, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Actually, this is exactly where it belongs.

      Religion permits people to believe divine will supports them.

      If it does, Israel does not need our help. If it does not, we must reject them as Theocratic.

      The "pro" lobby wants to avoid Americans recognizing them for what they are, and they have done a good job.

      Luckily the choke hold is weakening.

      We spend BILLIONS of dollars and have for decades propping up a theocracy, primarily being driven by Right Wing Christians who believe Israel has some divine purpose.

      It does not, and any claims otherwise are patently absurd.

      As the only super power, ALL of our allies must be subservient to our will.

      They must either come to heel, or twist in the wind, but rest assured, when the balloon goes up, they will not be calling Gods name, but ours.

      When they start the next war it will be our children who die, our treasure that will be lost and our democracy that will be put at risk.

      Are they really worth it?

      January 17, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
    • William Demuth

      The conflict in Israel is a religious civil war.

      The suppression of Non-Jews and the preference shown to Jews is Un-American and unacceptable.

      The idea that the US might buy into the idea of aiding them in maintaining what they themselves define as the “Jewish Nature” of their state is unamerican

      January 17, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
    • meifumado

      When given the choice of Israel or Arabs I choose Israel

      I dislike all religions

      However I see Islam as a greater threat to mankind

      January 17, 2013 at 5:32 pm |

    ZEPHANIAH CHAPTER 3 VERSE 10 From beyond their rivers of ETHIOPIA ,my supplicants even the daughter my disperse shall bring mine offering . The war which BILL CLINTON(the beast of revelation chapter 13) had declare on BLACK AMERICA and against those of AFRICAN descent around the world remain based on what he and his father knew aabout about ANDRE HIMES' future, the day he was born at SHAW AIR FORCE BASE on april 30 1965. Neither BILL CLINTON nor will those fallen angels who who rule AMERICA from those BLACK AMERICAN churches will be suprise by ANDRE HIMES miraculous survival in the future ,since they knew what the white feminist as well as those white who have a long history of embracing white supremacy did not know.Meanwhile a new demonic black america has arisen from both the black antebellum and hip hop nation and has replace the black human population who were exterminated during the black holocaust which took place during the years between 1968-1993-2001 and it is this evil which end up tormenting the lost souls of those who do not have the seal of the living GOD in their foreheads.

    January 17, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
    • End Religion

      Jill, you're needed on aisle 4, STAT!

      January 17, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
    • Gir

      These are the people that make the 2nd Amendment a necessity.

      January 17, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
    • meifumado

      I like pork chops

      January 17, 2013 at 5:28 pm |

      From hindu corruption of true Torah called Old testament.

      January 17, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
  18. dreamer96

    Hmm What would George Washington say???

    What would a whiskey brewer, with 5 still running, a slave owner, a large hemp grower, and smoker of hemp, like his slaves, think of a man like Hagel, a real war veterans that speaks his mind..like George Washington did....

    Why do you even care....If George Washington was alive today the GOP would have nothing to do with George Washington and ignore his opinion....

    January 17, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
    • End Religion

      i have a feeling George Washington would be in jail with both parties distancing themselves and demanding the $1 bill redesigned immediately.

      January 17, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
  19. Reality

    'What would George Washington do' about Chuck Hagel?"

    And what would GW do about the "wishy-washy" Stevie Prothero who still cannot make up his mind about what god or religion to believe in.

    January 17, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
  20. ?

    Uh, Stephen? There is virtually no faith angle in this at all.

    January 17, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
    • Reality

      Maybe Stevie is being paid by the "Jewish lobby"? 🙂

      January 17, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
1 2 3
About this blog

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.