Hallelujah! Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) supports gay rights! It only took him 66 years, leaving the Senate and nearly losing his nomination for Secretary of Defense to admit that gays are people, too.
Everything Hagel says about gay rights is too little, too late. As a gay man who had to live under the oppressive "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) policy, I'm shocked that he didn't support DADT repeal sooner. At the time of DADT repeal's passage, more than 70 percent of the American public supported repealing the policy. What was he waiting for?
I'm also shocked that he did not even make a public statement of support for DADT repeal. Instead, he wrote a letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) about how he finally supports repeal, which I'm sure was purely out of principle. Oh, by the way, Sen. Boxer's vote is one that he needs for confirmation as Secretary of Defense. Just coincidence?
The fact of the matter is that Hagel is embarrassing veterans everywhere. While most of us would believe that courage in battle translates into political courage, Hagel seems intent on proving us all wrong.
Now we're stuck in a situation where politics will override reason. President Obama failed to properly vet Hagel before his announcement and is stuck defending a bad candidate for Defense Secretary. After caving to the ridiculous attacks made against Susan Rice, President Obama can't (politically) let another nomination go awry, because doing so would undercut future nominations.
Unfortunately, this is a situation of the president's own making. I don't feel the slightest bit sorry for him.
President Obama has often been the reluctant gay rights hero. He had to be dragged into the fight on DADT and never took a leadership role. Though his signing the bill certainly deserves praise and political support, those of us who served will never forget that it was former Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) who pushed the standalone bill during the lame duck session of 2010. If he hadn't acted, the repeal of DADT would not have happened when it did.
In the meantime, people will bemoan the influence of special interest groups like the Human Rights Campaign, they'll talk nostalgically about how Washington politics are broken, and they probably won't even consider the fact there are other alternatives available.
In the end, Sen. Hagel will be confirmed as Secretary of Defense. After this blistering fight, he will probably work hard on his to-do list for gay service members, but let's face reality: All of this bluster, all the third-party groups and all of this noise wouldn't be necessary if our elected leaders just did the right thing.