I am not prepared to write off former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) as Secretary of Defense for comments he made years ago about former Ambassador James Hormel or issues related to the LGBT community. I am willing to accept his apology, which Ambassador Hormel has now accepted, even if reluctantly, because Hagel will work for President Obama, and I don't believe the president would nominate anyone to this sensitive position who will not be supportive of our community.
I believe that the president understands that were Hagel to fail to promote the continued integration of gays and lesbians into the military, or if he were to do anything to thwart it, there would be huge demonstrations, and not at the Pentagon but in front of the White House. It would be the president that the LGBT community would (and should) hold accountable.
I recently had to stymie a chuckle when reading the full-page ads that the Log Cabin Republicans placed in a number of newspapers, including The New York Times and the Washington Post, opposing Hagel's nomination. An organization that in 2012 endorsed the Romney/Ryan ticket for president and is now claiming to be so upset about things that Hagel said years ago is demonstrating blatant hypocrisy. I have to wonder who paid for those ads and whether the donor was really trying to stop Hagel's nomination for other reasons and only using Log Cabin as a vehicle to do so. It is interesting to see some in the LGBT community aligned with neocons and other Republican conservatives on this issue.
I had a real belly laugh when reading right-wing columnist Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post say, "If Republicans had nervy firebrands like the late Senator Ted Kennedy, someone would rise up and declare, 'Chuck Hagel's America is a land in which gays would be forced back in the closet.'" These, of course, would be the same Republicans who in 2012 adopted and supported a party platform that basically would have accomplished just that.
Hagel is part of a dying breed of moderate Republicans. In 2002 he accused the Bush administration of a "cavalier approach" to the rest of the world. A recent National Journal article on Hagel stated that he voted for the Iraq war resolution but insisted, "Actions in Iraq must come in context of an American-led, multilateral approach to disarmament not as a first case for a new American doctrine involving the preemptive use of force." Hagel has said that he is for talking to and trying to negotiate with Iran rather than having either the U.S. or Israel use military force to deal with them before all other options are exhausted. He voted for more than $40 billion in aid to Israel during his time in Congress but isn't willing to give Israel a blank check or approve new settlements and aggression when they aren't necessary.
He clearly shares many of the foreign policy positions of the Obama administration. He shares the president's view that we must realign our military and prepare for the kind of warfare we could face in the future, which is anathema to many of the neocons who have led us into war in the past.
One very interesting fact about Chuck Hagel is that he would be the first Secretary of Defense who actually volunteered for military service, having willfully enlisted to fight in Vietnam, something that should stand him in good stead with our all-volunteer military. I know that there will be a fight over this nomination, and it is a fight that the president has chosen to face. I support his right to choose the person he wants to lead the Pentagon, and unless something new and disturbing is unearthed during the confirmation hearings, I agree with organizations like J Street and a large bipartisan group of individuals, including former Sens. David L. Boren (D-Okla.), Gary Hart (D-Colo.) and Kassebaum-Baker (R-Kan.), and others such as Zbigniew Brzezinski, Thomas Carlucci, Brent Scowcroft and Paul Volcker, who agree that Hagel should be confirmed.
An earlier version of this piece appeared in the Washington Blade.