Obama taps Hagel despite opposition from LGBT groups, right-wingers

Posted on 07 Jan 2013 at 3:32pm

Chuck Hagel

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz probably didn’t expect his first major stand in the U.S. Senate to be firmly on the same side as his LGBT constituents.

But Cruz and LGBT groups — along with right-wing supporters of Israel, some Jewish groups and many Democrats who want a Democrat appointed — are united in their opposition to the nomination of Sen. Chuck Hagel as defense secretary. Sen. John Cornyn also said he opposes Hagel’s nomination.

Cruz said on Fox News Sunday he couldn’t imagine supporting Hagel because of his anti-Israel positions.

Log Cabin Republicans has been among the most vocal of Hagel’s LGBT opponents. Log Cabin, which took a leading role in the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” took out full-page ads last week in the New York Times and today in the Washington Post opposing the nomination. In 2011, Log Cabin won a lawsuit challenging DADT that resulted in a ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordering the federal government to stop enforcing it. The ruling came after repeal legislation passed but before final enactment.

Erin Moore, a national board member for Stonewall Democrats, said she thinks it’s a fine nomination.

“He votes his conscience, not his party” she said. “We want people who change their minds. Log Cabin not forgiving him is ridiculous. I think he’s the most qualified person for the job.”

Hagel apologized for calling President Bill Clinton’s appointee of James Hormel as ambassador to Luxemburg “openly and aggressively gay.” In his apology he asked that people look at his entire record.

But that record includes 0 percent ratings on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard index, including a vote in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act. Hagel was a senator from Nebraska from 1997 until 2009.

Tammy Baldwin, the only openly LGBT person in the U.S. Senate, which must confirm Hagel, would not commit to supporting the nominee.

Former Rep. Barney Frank, who is gay and Jewish, said, “I was hoping the president wouldn’t nominate him.” Frank has spoken to the governor of Massachusetts about an interim appointment to the U.S. Senate to fill John Kerry’s seat. Kerry has been nominated for secretary of State. Frank’s position has moderated. He said that as much as he regrets what Hagel said, referring to Hormel, in light of most of the opposition coming from the far right, he hopes Hagel is appointed.

At least one group is openly supporting Hagel’s nomination.

Rick Jacobs, chair of the Courage Campaign, wrote in the Huffington Post about his support for Hagel. The Courage Campaign is an online organizing network for progressive issues and was particularly active in the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal.

Jacobs makes the argument with four particular points and claims that on the gay issue, Hagel has “evolved.”

While HRC accepted Hagel’s apology — even before Hormel did — GetEQUAL did not.

“GetEQUAL strongly opposes the potential nomination of Chuck Hagel to become the next Secretary of Defense,” Tanya Domi, GetEQUAL’s board chair. “Hagel has, time and time again, taken every opportunity to lambast and denigrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, and the Cabinet is no place for this kind of disrespect.”

In it’s announcement, the White House addressed concerns about Hagel’s position on gays and lesbians in the armed forces.

“Senator Hagel issued a statement in which he apologized for comments he made in the 1990s, and affirmed both his commitment to LGBT civil rights as well as his support for open service and the families of gay and lesbian service members,” Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett wrote.

National Jewish groups are mostly unhappy with the nomination but have been tepid in their opposition.

Hagel “would not have been my first choice,” said Anti-Defamation League President Abe Foxman.

The National Jewish Democratic Council and American Jewish Committee both said they have questions about Hagel but won’t oppose his nomination.

The Emergency Committee for Israel, however, says, “Chuck Hagel is not a responsible option,” on its new website dedicated to opposition of the nomination. The group is headed by neo-con William Kristol.

Most items on the list are related to Israel but some are not, such as:

In June 1999, Hagel was the only U.S. Senator who refused to sign an American Jewish Committee ad in the New York Times asking Russian President Boris Yeltsin to combat anti-Semitism in Russia.

Locally, Rabbi Steve Fisch with LGBT synagogue Congregation Beth El Binah also opposes the nomination both for Hagel’s Jewish and gay positions. He wrote in a statement to Dallas Voice:

I am very concerned about Hagel’s statement that the “Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of lawmakers.” The object of any lobby is to persuade lawmakers that their position is correct. I strongly object to Hagel singling out the pro-Israel lobby (whose supporters include both Jews and non-Jews) for criticism. I have not heard a nominee for another position in President Obama’s cabinet say that any other lobbyists groups “intimidate a lot of lawmakers.”

I feel that Hagel’s statements on the Jewish Lobby, as well as his blatently anti-gay sentiment have shown us his true feelings about important issues that affect our entire nation. Although I am a strong supporter of President Obama, I feel that the President has made a monumental mistake by nominating Hagel. I personally hope that he is not confirmed for secretary of defense.

And writing as Democrats opposing the appointment of another Republican as defense secretary, the staff of Daily Kos wrote, “This continues the long tradition of Democratic presidents putting Republicans in the top Pentagon position for no clear reason.”

They argue, “Hagel was (at the time) pro-Bush-wars and (more recently) fought against greater inclusion for women and for gay Americans in the military, all of which would seem to disqualify him from the top leadership spot.”

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