Robert Bork died recently, but the tactics that kept him off the Supreme Court live on. Some even relish the precedent.
“If Republicans had nervy firebrands like the late Sen. Ted Kennedy,” writesÂ Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin, “someone would rise up to declare, ‘Chuck Hagelâs America is a land in which gays would be forced back in the closet and JewsÂ would be accused of dual loyalty. Chuck Hagelâs world is one in which devastating defense cuts become a goal, not a problem; we enter direct talks with the terrorist organization Hamas; and sanctions on Iran wither.’”
Why Republicans would want someone like Ted Kennedy, or to heap praise on his tendency to launch malicious and inaccurate attacks on people he disagreed with, is beyond me. But it is clear that Hagelâs nomination for secretary of defense will be met with an attempted borking.
To hear some of Hagelâs critics tell it, you would think he was the only Republican senator who raised any objections when Bill Clinton nominated an openly gay man to become ambassador to Luxembourg in the 1990s. In fact, Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe at one point threatened to put a hold on all of Clintonâs pending nominations unless James Hormel was withdrawn. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and such nervy Republican firebrands as Jesse Helms and John Ashcroft tried to block Hormel.
Did any national security hawks try to block Ashcroftâs nomination for attorney general on these grounds? If they did, I must have missed it.
Hagel awkwardly backed up his Senate Republican colleagues in an interview with an Omaha newspaper, calling Hormel âaggressively openly gay.â At the time, the Hormel nomination had a lot of Republicans tongue-tied.
Re-read this Weekly Standard article from that time period and youâll see the campaigns of George W. Bush and John McCain not going the full Hagel, but not exactly riding to Hormelâs defense either.
Hagelâs comments came two years removed from House Democrats approving the Defense of Marriage Act 188 to 65 and Senate Democrats voting for it 32 to 14. Clinton signed it into law. Gallup found that barely 27 percent of the American people supported gay marriage at the time.
Clinton himself passed Hormel over for a post in Fiji because of both local and Republican opposition that stemmed partly from Hormel’s sexual orientation. Such context may not be important to ideologues, but it should be important to people who are trying to be fair.
Several of the Republicans raising questions about Hagel voted against repealing “donât ask, donât tell” just two years ago. Does anyone want to bet what John Hageeâs views are on these issues? Who are we trying to kid here?
Hagelâs voting record on foreign policy and defense issues is also much less radical than advertised. He regularly voted for aid to Israel, opposed a bill that would cap that aid, supported George W. Bushâs military spending increases, favored the initial invasion of Iraq, backed the Kosovo war, and voted for several bills imposing sanctions on Iran.
Much of the case against Hagel revolves around him turning against the Iraq war at the same time most of America did (Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell admitted in 2007, âMany of the predictions Chuck Hagel made about the war came trueâ), preferring multilateral sanctions to unilateral ones, signing some letters denouncing anti-Semitism (including a letter to the United Nations denouncing the anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) while not signing others, and mentioning Pentagon âbloatâ in an answer to a reporterâs question that appears to stop short of a full endorsement of the defense sequester.