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March 4, 2013 12:55 pm

Interviewer for Hagel’s ‘Jewish lobby’ Comment Didn’t Expect Ensuing Controversy

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Aaron David Miller. Photo: Aaron David Miller.

WASHINGTON, DC—Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s 2008 comment that “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people” in Washington, DC did not seem like “some sort of extraordinary hot scoop” at the time, the man he spoke those words to told JNS.org.

Hagel made his “Jewish lobby” reference, for which he came under fire in the pro-Israel community and from legislators on both sides of the political spectrum before being confirmed as defense secretary, in an interview with former Middle East peace negotiator Aaron David Miller in a quote that appeared in Miller’s book, The Much Too Promised Land.

Miller, an advisor to six Secretaries of State who now works for the Woodrow Wilson Center, told JNS.org at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference that he did not see the “Jewish lobby” comment garnering the buzz that it has “because I knew Chuck Hagel was one of the more honest, outspoken members of Congress.” Hagel has said, “If I wanted a safe, secure job I would have been a shoe salesman,” Miller noted.

“And that kind of clarity and honesty—and I interviewed many members of Congress for that book—you just don’t find,” Miller said. “So what struck me about that, it was Hagel’s honesty. And he regrets now using the word ‘Jewish lobby.’ I don’t use it because it’s an exact, and it shuts people down, and since my job is about addition rather than subtraction, I’m not interested in not having people listen to me.”

“But no, I didn’t think, ‘Whoa, this is some sort of extraordinary hot scoop [when Hagel made his comment],'” Miller added.

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