The controversy over President Barack Obama’s nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defense are, as Republicans say, he is anti-military, anti-Israel and soft on Iran. The gay Log Cabin Republicans, and a few others from the left, object because of his stand against the 1998 appointment of James Hormel as Ambassador to Luxembourg, who is openly gay. The problem on the left is he’s another Republican. Most of these objections won’t prevent Sen. Hagel from being confirmed.
When it comes to LGBT equality, 1998 is a different universe. Virtually no prominent Democrats (let alone Republicans) supported marriage equality back then, or even equal rights for LGBT citizens. In fact, Hagel’s comment came only two years after the overwhelming majority of Democratic Senators voted in favor of the truly odious and discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act – including Joe Biden, Patty Murray, Pat Leahy and Paul Wellstone – which was then signed into law by Bill Clinton. That law not only defined marriage as between a man and a woman, but barred the federal government from issuing any spousal benefits – immigration, tax, death benefits – to same-sex couples. If you’re going to judge politicians by how they felt about LGBT issues 15 years ago, be prepared to scorn almost every national Democratic Party hero you have as a bigot. [..]
So yes: like virtually every prominent politician in both parties, Chuck Hagel had primitive and ugly views on gay issues back in 1998. But shouldn’t the question be: does he still hold these views or, like huge numbers of Americans, have his viewed evolved since then? Hagel has apologized for what he said, an apology which Hormel accepted, graciously noting: “I can’t remember a time when a potential presidential nominee apologized for anything . . . .Since 1998, fourteen years have passed, and public attitudes have shifted–perhaps Senator Hagel has progressed with the times, too.” Moreover, Hagel last week also vowed that he is “fully supportive of ‘open service’ and committed to LGBT military families.” [..]
Then there’s the issue of Hagel’s party affiliation. The perception that Republicans are more trustworthy than Democrats on military issues – and that Democratic presidents thus had to rely on Republicans to run the Pentagon – was indeed both pervasive and baseless. But that, too, has changed: the outgoing Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, is as loyal and partisan a Democrat as it gets, and nobody objected to his selection.
But much more importantly: when it comes to issues such as war, militarism, defense spending and Middle East policy, isn’t substance much more significant than whether someone has an “R” or “D” after their name? As Obama himself proves – and as Biden and Clinton before him proved – the fact that someone has a “D” after their name is hardly a guarantor that they will oppose policies of aggression and militarism. Indeed, as Clemons said Friday night on MSNBC, most Democrats in the Pentagon are so afraid of being cast as “soft on defense” that they hug policies of militarism far more eagerly and unquestioningly than Chuck Hagel ever would. Is partisan identity so all-consuming that it completely trumps substance, so that a hawkish Democrat is preferable to a war-skeptic Republican?
Just as a reminder, although Sen. Hagel objected to the authorization to invade Iraq in 2002, he still voted for it. So have the feral children of the right turned on him? It would seem that Sen. Hagel did the unthinkable, he told he truth about the real reason for the invasion, oil. He then committed a second “cardinal sin” when he voted for withdrawal.
Then according to the neocon’s he is soft on Iran and not sufficiently pro-Israel and has even been called antisemitic. Those objections are based on Sen. Hagel’s refusal to sign onto a number of AIPAC’s policy pronouncements and objections to military intervention with Iran over a non-existant nuclear weapons program. Since most of those allegations are exaggerated or just false, the opposition is losing “steam” according to Josh Marshall at TPM:
Nominations lose steam or gain steam. Campaigns against nominations lose steam or gain steam. And at the moment, the campaign against Chuck Hagel’s nomination is losing steam. AIPAC and the ADL have both signaled they do not plan to make a fight of it. Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister is giving Hagel the thumbs up. Now even the Washington Post editorial page has signaled it’s backing off its opposition.
As I noted on Sunday, the prospect of a five seat Democratic majority denying a reelected President the nomination of a former Senator who is blandly unobjectionable anywhere outside the hothouse of DC was always quite unlikely. And these tells are consequential precisely because they signal that the parties in question don’t think it’s a winnable fight.
This is all a tempest in a teapot and ridiculous on its face just as the complaints that Pres. Obama isn’t sufficiently bipartisan. Sen. Hagel is just another in a long succession of right of center nominees, appointments and hold overs from the Bush administration that have been part of Pres. Obama’s neoliberal agenda.