In a private meeting Monday—not just any old private meeting, but a 90 minutes long private meeting!—New York senator Chuck Schumer was reassured by secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel that he didn’t mean the many things he’s said over the years and didn’t stand by the many votes he’s cast over the years. And while Schumer graciously allowed that “the Senate confirmation process must be allowed to run its course,” he hopes “that Senator Hagel’s thorough explanations will remove any lingering controversy regarding his nomination.”

He’s got to be kidding.

If you read the text of the Schumer statement, and of Hagel’s letter reassuring California senator Barbara Boxer, there’s no reason for senators who want to think for themselves, and who are willing to stand up to the White House, to be reassured.

To take one point only: Schumer says, “Regarding his unfortunate use of the term ‘Jewish lobby’ to refer to certain pro-Israel groups, Senator Hagel understands the sensitivity around such a loaded term and regrets saying it.” It’s nice that Senator Hagel now understands “the sensitivity around such a loaded term,” an understanding he lacked until a few days ago. But here’s the Hagel quotation: “The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here.” Chuck Schumer is silent on the proposition that his colleagues are pro-Israel because of intimidation by a lobby that Chuck Hagel openly and aggressively called the Jewish lobby. Does Schumer accept that characterization of his colleagues? Does Hagel still hold to it? And what about the rest of the Hagel discourse, where he boasts that he’s not a senator from Israel and the like? Was it all just a rare moment of Hagelian insensitivity?

Republican senators, and Democratic senators who are willing to take seriously their advise and consent responsibility, won’t follow Schumer’s lead in making fools of themselves. They’ll wait for the public hearings so as to be able to explore in the light of day the record of a man nominated for so important a position of public trust.

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