Say It Once, Say It Four Times, NYT: 'Neoconservatives'

Political reporter Jim Rutenberg, along with his headline writer, threw around the loaded term "neoconservative," a term most often used as an insult by leftists and the media, in "Hawks on Iraq At War Again, Against Hagel – Neoconservatives Seek to Block Confirmation," the off-lead story on the front of Sunday's New York Times on the looming battle in Congress over Chuck Hagel's nomination as Obama's Secretary of Defense.

In all, the mouthful of a term appeared five times, including one supporting reference from journalist William Kristol.

The campaign now being waged against Mr. Hagel’s nomination as secretary of defense is in some ways a relitigation of that decade-old dispute. It is also a dramatic return to the public stage by the neoconservatives whose worldview remains a powerful undercurrent in the Republican Party and in the national debate about the United States’ relationship with Israel and the Middle East.

To Mr. Hagel’s allies, his presence at the Pentagon would be a very personal repudiation of the interventionist approach to foreign policy championed by the so-called Vulcans in the administration of President George W. Bush, who believed in pre-emptive strikes against potential threats and the promotion of democracy, by military means if necessary.

“This is the neocons’ worst nightmare because you’ve got a combat soldier, successful businessman and senator who actually thinks there may be other ways to resolve some questions other than force,” said Richard L. Armitage, who broke with the more hawkish members of the Bush team during the Iraq war when he was a deputy to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, who championed the Iraq invasion and is leading the opposition to Mr. Hagel’s nomination, says the former senator and his supporters are suffering from “neoconservative derangement syndrome.”

After throwing a couple more "neoconservatives" into the mix, Rutenberg painted a prominent critic of Hagel negatively.

One critic is Elliott Abrams, a national security adviser to Mr. Bush during the Iraq war who pleaded guilty in the Iran-contra scandal to withholding information from Congress. He called Mr. Hagel an anti-Semite who has “some kind of problem with Jews” in an interview on NPR last week. (The Council on Foreign Relations, where Mr. Abrams is a senior fellow, distanced itself from his comments.)

Rutenberg saved this inconvenient fact about Hagel for the last paragraph.

If Mr. Hagel’s call for caution seems prescient, several opponents have argued that his prediction that the 2006 troop surge would fail was not -- a position sure to come up frequently as confirmation hearings get closer.