Just for a moment, let’s put aside former Nebraska senator and current defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel’s history of opposing gay rights. Let’s put aside his comments about the “legitimate” government of Iran. Let’s even put aside his comments about the influence of the “Jewish lobby” in the United States. Even with all of that off the table, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who could say with a straight face that Chuck Hagel’s performance at his confirmation hearings was anything short of disastrous. Rather than being assured of his bona fides, members of the United States Senate — and Americans everywhere — were left with more questions than answers.
Of course, once all of the policy issues are added back into the mix, it gets even worse.
In addition to our longstanding support for a portfolio of issues specific to equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans, Log Cabin Republicans has always held a strong national defense as a key tenant of our core values. And while support for a strong military is widespread in general conservative circles, it is specifically prevalent in gay Republican circles. It may come as a surprise to some, but there are many gay individuals who feel that Israel is our strongest ally in the Middle East and who believe that Iran is no friend to gay people. One nation allows open service by gay individuals in its military; the other kills people because they are gay (or merely suspected of being gay). The soft stance Hagel has taken toward our allies and our enemies in the Middle East is enough to raise serious concerns about the impact the appointment of a Secretary Hagel would have on our image in the eyes of both.
The best — and only — argument Hagel’s proponents have is that they “hope” he will do as he says, and they “trust” he has changed. Gay advocates state they are “confident” Hagel would implement equal benefits for military couples as head of the Pentagon — even as outgoing Secretary Leon Panetta hurriedly pushed through a slate of same-sex military benefits in his final days in office in a move that assuaged liberals who were secretly concerned Hagel would not do the same.
Log Cabin Republicans is the only gay advocacy group that has consistently opposed Hagel’s nomination. It’s foolhardy to “hope” without thought; to “trust” without verifying. And when we look to Hagel’s record for verification, we find a dismal litany of anti-gay policies. Calling Ambassador James Hormel “openly, aggressively gay” — as bad as that is — was just the tip of the iceberg. His support of the Defense of Marriage Act, his opposition to repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and his openness to supporting a federal marriage amendment as recently as 2008 all tell us one thing: Chuck Hagel is the wrong choice for secretary of defense.
The liberal lockstep on the Hagel nomination has been nothing short of staggering. Likewise, the embrace of Hagel by left-leaning gay advocates, whose shrills would have echoed from coast to coast if this were the nominee of a Republican president, has resulted in a lack of due diligence on the next head of the Department of Defense.
Chuck Hagel’s confirmation hearings left more questions than answers. Log Cabin Republicans is going to keep asking them.
Gregory T. Angelo is the executive director of Log Cabin Republicans. Visit LogCabin.org for more information.