The Compass

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Character Assassination Isn't an Argument

One of the striking things about the argument over Mr Hagel, who was a Republican senator for Nebraska for 12 years, is the nastiness of the arguments over foreign policy within the Republican Party. The disputes within the party over taxes and immigration are so prominent that it is easy to lose sight of the fierce disagreements between its realist and neo-conservative wings. The same sort of personal animus was evident when the Romney campaign announced that Bob Zoellick, the former World Bank boss and realist standard-bearer, would be in charge of foreign policy personnel in the event of an election victory, prompting howls of disapproval from neo-conservatives. If Mr Romney had won the election, the infighting would have been fierce. -- Geoff Dyer

I think we need to distinguish between "howls of disapproval" and "nasty smears." It's perfectly fine for neocons to argue (even howl) that Hagel is unfit to be defense secretary because he's soft on Iran or whatnot, but to call him an anti-Semite is character assassination.