Political Animal


December 22, 2012 10:23 AM How about a simple rule for Democratic cabinets: no bigots need apply

By Kathleen Geier

You’ve probably heard by now that former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican, is being considered for Obama’s new Secretary of Defense, to replace the incumbent, Leon Panetta. I think he would be a terrible choice. First of all, it’s not like his record on foreign policy and national security issues is anything to be proud of. He voted in favor of the Iraq War and also made a series of other terrible votes concerning that war; for example, against creating a special committee to investigate Halliburton and other defense contractors. In addition, he was pretty awful on national security issues, voting in favor of FISA and the the PATRIOT Act.

But the real no-brainer reason as to why he should absolutely, under circumstances whatsoever be considered for a cabinet position is that he is a bigot who has openly favored persecuting LGBTQ people. He not only favored excluding gay men and women from the military, but, in 1998, tried to prevent a Clinton nominee from becoming ambassador because he was gay. The man, James Hormel, eventually did become ambassador to Luxemborg, but Hagel strongly opposed the nomination, telling the Omaha World-Herald:

They [ambassadors] are representing our lifestyle, our values, our standards. And I think it is an inhibiting factor to be gay — openly aggressively gay like Mr. Hormel — to do an effective job.

That “openly aggressively gay” business is sort of hilarious. What did he think, that Hormel was going to host state dinners in Liza Minnelli drag?

As it turns out, Luxemborg had anti-discrimination laws and that country had no issue with Hormel’s sexual orientation. The only ones who had a problem were the Christian right and senate bigots like Hagel and his comrades-in-arms Jesse Helms, John Ashcroft, and others.

Now, 14 years after this disgraceful episode, and with his nomination for SecDef hanging in the balance, the Chuckster has issued an apology for his past anti-gay slurs and support of anti-gay policies. It’s day late and a dollar short, if you ask me, and Hormel himself is having none of it. In an interview yesterday with the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, Hormel questioned the sincerity of Hagel’s apologized, and noted that Hagel had never apologized to him personally:

“I have not received an apology,” Hormel, who is a major figure in Democratic politics, told me. “I thought this so-called apology, which I haven’t received, but which was made public, had the air of being a defensive move on his part.” Hormel added that the apology appeared to have been given “only in service of his attempt to get the nomination.”

Chuck Hagel is up for a very important job in a Democratic administration. The Democratic Party ostensibly supports equal rights for, and the full inclusion of, LGTBQ people. And yet up until very recently, Hagel was an open bigot who believed it was perfectly okay to deny highly qualified gay men and women ambassadorships and the right to serve in the military, simply on the basis of their sexual orientation.

In this country, we have a political party which supports the bigoted, homophobic viewpoint that Hagel championed throughout his public life. That party is known as the Republicans. The Democrats are supposed to stand for something different. There are many people qualified to serve as Secretary of Defense, who are not burdened with Chuck Hagel’s ugly, homophobic baggage. Chuck Hagel’s nomination would be totally unacceptable. I urge President Obama to move on and select such a person, someone has championed values of tolerance and equality, rather bigotry and hate.

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee


  • square1 on December 22, 2012 12:04 PM:

    I'm pretty sure that Obama exhausted his use for the LGBT community about 6 weeks ago. He can now go back to tapping Republicans for key posts and pissing off teh gayz.

    The silver lining is that Hagel appears to be giving the AIPAC crowd a headache, which is usually a good sign.

  • g. powell on December 22, 2012 12:12 PM:

    Hagel is a combat vet, understands the military, has stood up for the troops and has confronted the loons in his own party.

    Is he perfect? Not by a long shot, but you won't find many people who haven't evolved on gay issues significantly over the last decade. He has apologized and promises to uphold administration policy in the military.

    I hope Obama ignores your narrow-litmus test and nominate Hagel. They're just aren't that many people as qualified to hold that position.

  • biggerbox on December 22, 2012 12:18 PM:

    I think Obama should nominate Susan Rice, just to mess with people.

    But he never listens to me. So we'll get Hagel. You'd think there'd be some conservative Democratic hawk sitting on a shelf somewhere that he could pick instead, but I guess not.

  • Andrew J. Lazarus on December 22, 2012 12:39 PM:

    I'm not excited about Hagel, either, but I'd like to hear what he has to say about gays in the military and gay marriage today. He wouldn't be the first guy to have "evolved" a lot.

  • c u n d gulag on December 22, 2012 12:52 PM:

    It's amazing how many people "evolve" when it might cost them a job or position the covet.

    Yes, I'd prefer a Democrat to fill that position - or, almost ALL positions in the cabinet.

    However, this goes beyond Hagel's obvious qualifications for the job, homophobia issues resolved, or not. This is a political move.

    The more Republicans President Obama and the Democrats can pry from their party, the more extreme the remaining members may be perceived to be by the public.

    We have to use every method at our disposal to do what the MSM consistently fails to do, which is point out that one of the two major parties in this country isn't just off it's rocker, it's off the porch, through the gate, and on the road to the Insane Asylum.

  • Crissa on December 22, 2012 12:58 PM:

    Yeah, Hagel's not my guy, either.

    But on the other hand, I'd rather know about what position he has today.

    I don't want Republicans in my party, but since the reasonable ones - well, mostly reasonable - don't have a party to go to...

    It's not like Hagel is going to suddenly reverse administration policy on gay rights in the military. Or that he could.

  • Ken on December 22, 2012 1:28 PM:

    Hagel voted guilty on Clinton's impeachment.
    Hagel stood by while Kerry was swift boated by Hagel's party.
    Hagel expressed homophobia as a reason to block an Ambassadors appointment.
    Hagel is a Global warming denier and led opposition to Kyoto accord.
    Hagel rated at 0% by NARAL.
    Hagel rated 100% by Right to Life
    Hagel is a right wing ( not hard right) political hack with no loyalty to anything but himself and right wing ideology.

    So to be in charge of a changing military an individual who has shown opposition to women, Civil rights, global warming and has shown support for bigotry, political assasination by impeachment and swift boating against honorable opponents.

    So why is even being considered?

  • Gandalf on December 22, 2012 1:28 PM:

    Many good popints here made about Hagel. Kathleen seems to be suffering from an adherence to a dogmatic position in a way that dare I say it the conservatives usually do.

  • Dude on December 22, 2012 1:37 PM:

    So people can't change?
    “My comments 14 years ago in 1998 were insensitive,” Hagel said in a written statement issued by his office Friday. “They do not reflect my views or the totality of my public record, and I apologize to Ambassador Hormel and any [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] Americans who may question my commitment to their civil rights.
    “I am fully supportive of ‘open service,’ ” he added, “and committed to LGBT military families.”


  • golack on December 22, 2012 2:03 PM:

    His change may be window dressing, but as long as he does not undermine gays in the military, then it's basically a non-issue at this point.

    Why cut him any slack? Simple, his job is to reign in the military-industrial complex. That would be almost impossible for a Democrat to do effectively--the whole national security card. And it's that complex that is draining our country dry--outside spending increases, budget overruns, no accountability, equipment that doesn't work, constant pushing for military engagements (how else to make even more money), etc. Eisenhower was right.

  • suekzoo on December 22, 2012 2:09 PM:

    I just wonder who else might have been considered. Jim Webb? Wesley Clark?

    I don't have angst against Hagel, and he does have a lot going for him. Google his work on banning the use of landmines, for instance. And anyone who upsets AIPAC can't be all bad. If he is nominated, the Senate needs to scrutinize his present day views.

  • BrookLyn1825 on December 22, 2012 2:22 PM:

    The most revered Democrat president in recent history signed DADT. If he were nominated for Secretary of Defense would this issue come up?

    The current Secretary of State voted for the Iraq War as well as FISA and the Patriot Act.

    POTUS voted against the Iraq War BUT voted for FISA and the Patriot Act AND has upheld the Patriot Act throughout his presidency so really what are we talking about and who should get this nomination.

    Furthermore by floating a Republican for Secretary of Defense Obama kills the meme of his not being bi-partisan and forces republicans to eat one of their own.

    I wish everyone would stop acting like they know better than this president on how to navigate the crazy circumstances he's working under. He's expertly navigated the politics and media; often making even liberal media look like hair on fire idiots.

  • Ryan Seacrest on December 22, 2012 3:25 PM:

    Great comments on this thread

  • Allan Snyder on December 22, 2012 3:36 PM:

    Nice to see that most of the comments here are more reasonable-as is Andrew Sullivan, who agrees that his views 15-20 years ago on this issue are mostly irrelevant, it's what he says and does now. As for previous votes regarding Iraq and domestic spying, remember that a lot of Dems voted for those things too.

  • mudwall jackson on December 22, 2012 3:38 PM:

    just for the record, john kerry voted for both the iraq war and the patriot act as well.

    sure hagel should be questioned aggressively about his views on gays in the military and gay rights in general. but should what he said 14 years ago automatically disqualify him? should hugo black's membership in the klan disqualified him from serving on the supreme court? would we be better off as a nation if one of the greatest liberals of 20th century had not served? people do evolve.

  • Informant on December 22, 2012 4:04 PM:

    Wow, did AIPAC make a donation during pledge week or something? When WaMo is pushing lies from Jennifer Rubin that have already been debunked by TAC, it's a sad day for progressive journalism: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/jennifer-rubins-gay-rights-bluff/

  • jprichva on December 22, 2012 4:31 PM:

    Once again, Obama shows the gay community what he thinks of us. Or doesn't. I got the measure of this guy when he included the vicious Donnie McClurkin on the campaign trail in 2008. So he's "evolved", has he? Not hardly. Supports gay marriage because Joe Biden shamed him into it. Spent four years insulting and marginalizing the gay community in every way he could.

    I voted for him only because Romney was unthinkable. But God I hate the man.

  • Doug on December 22, 2012 4:52 PM:

    Personally, I'd prefer a Democrat in the position and have no doubt that, once we run out of "sane" Republicans, it may actually occur - perhaps during the second administration of whoever's President after HRC?
    People's attitudes DO change, whether those changes are for political or other reasons matters not to me. Using the votes/positions of Democrats on Iraq/LGBT/"Patriot" Act/FISA would wipe out the present Democratic Party by enforcing the same sort of "purity" tests so beloved by Tbaggers. Do we really want to do THAT?
    I'm less overwhelmed by Hagel's resistance to the dread AIPAC, as that organization, while powerful on the Potomac, has been steadily shown to NOT represent the views of Jews of this country, including those in Nebraska, in regards to our support of Israel,
    Better still, would be the ability of Hagel to manage the "downsizing" of the DoD, something long overdue. Hell, I'd consider his stewardship of the DoD to rank up there with Marshall's if Hagel's ONLY accomplishment was to set up a system that kept track of the money and supplies!

  • Ron E. on December 23, 2012 6:55 AM:

    How about an even simpler rule: no Republicans in a cabinet for a Democratic President?