"It's never a good idea to steal the president's thunder," Vice President Joe Biden told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference this morning, in an impassioned speech about the need to maintain strong ties between the United States and Israel.
Biden, who nudged the administration on same-sex marriage last year, was foreshadowing President Obama's visit to Israel later this month, his first trip since becoming president.
Chuck Hagel was finally, officially, confirmed as the next Secretary of Defense on Tuesday, after weeks of squabbling and a ceremonial filibuster.
The confirmation is a victory for the president, who nominated Hagel over some preemptive grumbling from pro-Israel groups, and, to a lesser extent, a win for Chuck Schumer, who provided key early cover for the nominee after a 90-minute White House meeting.(1)
Called upon this morning, again, to defend his endorsement of Chuck Hagel's nomination as defense secretary, Senator Chuck Schumer answered by talking about a conversation he had with Hagel about his previous reference to a "Jewish lobby" in America.
"Senator [Frank] Lautenberg was a close friend of mine and I'm going to miss him badly," Sen. Chuck Schumer told reporters at his office in midtown this afternoon, shortly before Lautenberg was scheduled to officially announce his impending retirement in Paterson, New Jersey.
"He had passion," Schumer continued. "He was not one of those people who just put his finger to the wind and figured out the political angles. He cared about a lot of things, and he'd focus on specific issues and get them done.
By a party-line vote of 14 to 11, the Senate Armed Services Committee favorably reported the nomination of Chuck Hagel this afternoon.
The vote came after Republicans took another turn criticizing Hagel for past comments he made as a senator, more recent comments he made during a shaky confirmation hearing, and additional comments and financial information that they said he failed to adequately disclose.
Rep. Eliot Engel thinks President Obama's planned trip to Israel could help put to rest the recent campaign rhetoric about how the president is insufficiently supportive of our closest ally in the Middle East.
"I'm happy he's doing it, I think it'll be successful," said Engel. "I think it will put to rest what some people say that he's not pro-Israel."
"He stuck by his answers. He didn't change any of the answers he gave to me. He just didn't articulate them that well, that day. But, so be it."(1)
In a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand finally had the chance to publicly question Chuck Hagel, saying she'd be focusing her time on the "most urgent issues from my perspective," which were, in order: Iran, Israel, Israel, Israel, Syria, Afghanistan, and the treatment of women in the military.(2)
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is scheduled to meet with Chuck Hagel today, as the nominee for defense secretary makes the rounds to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The two spoke briefly after President Obama announced Hagel's nomination, but Gillibrand has officially withheld judgment on the nominee until they could speak in person. The meeting is tentatively planned for this afternoon, but could get postponed due to votes on the Senate floor.
Sen. Chuck Schumer defended his early endorsement of Chuck Hagel on a Jewish radio program this morning, saying he had asked "probing" questions in his 90-minute meeting with Hagel at the White House.
"His answers were not pat, were not check the box," Schumer told Nachum Segal, the host of "JM in the AM."
"You know, Nachum, I've been around, I've been in politics 37 years and I've been fooled on occasion, but not too often," Schumer said. "I think I have a pretty good, as they call it, b.s. detector.
After an extended meeting in the West Wing of the White House yesterday, Sen. Chuck Schumer issued a statement this morning supporting Chuck Hagel's nomination as Secretary of Defense.
"Based on several key assurances provided by Senator Hagel, I am currently prepared to vote for his confirmation," he said in the statement. "I encourage my Senate colleagues who have shared my previous concerns to also support him."
On Sunday morning, Colin Powell defended Chuck Hagel's nomination as defense secretary, and excoriated the current state of the Republican Party.
"There’s also a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the Party," Powell said on "Meet the Press."
"What I do mean by that? I mean by that is they still sort of look down on minorities."
New York senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, who could play a key role in the fate of Chuck Hagel's nomination as Defense Secretary, are still officially undecided as to whether they'll support. But Hagel isn't simply waiting for them to make up their minds.
He reached out to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand earlier this week, and the two spoke briefly by telephone, according to a source with knowledge of the call.(2)
Chuck Schumer won't say exactly how he plans to handle the nomination of Chuck Hagel, whose past reference to a "Jewish lobby" and opposition to Iran sanctions have rattled some staunch supporters of Israel.
Chuck Schumer very much doesn't have anything to say yet about the president's nomination of Chuck Hagel as defense secretary.