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Obama Missteps In Response To LGBT Concerns About Hagel Nomination

by David Badash on January 7, 2013

in News

Post image for Obama Missteps In Response To LGBT Concerns About Hagel Nomination

President Obama has nominated former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel to replace Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense. What many months ago assumed would be a quick and easy, no-muss, no-fuss nomination has turned into a small political war.

Watch: President Obama’s Full Remarks On Nominations Of Chuck Hagel And John Brennan

First, many in the LGBT community raised strong concerns over Hagel’s 1998 anti-gay comments, for which Hagel apologized — after his name was floated for Defense.

In 1998, Hagel, during the nomination hearing of James Hormel to be ambassador to Luxembourg, called him “openly aggressively gay.” There are other reports of Hagel’s anti-gay positions.

From GetEQUAL to the Log Cabin Republicans, LGBT orgs have been the main source of disapproval, until the “oppose everything Obama supports” GOP got to work, trying to destroy one of their own.

Almost anyone would assume that Republicans would support a Republican for Defense Secretary, but, no. Even Senator John McCain, who, in 1996, “campaigned for Hagel in his first Senate race,” and in “2000, Hagel co-chaired McCain’s first presidential campaign,” opposes Hagel.

Today, minutes into President Obama’s national announcement, carried live, top Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett published at the Huffington Post and on the White House blog, a statement, of course, supporting Hagel’s nomination.

“Senator Hagel has been a strong supporter of the President’s approach to national security, and as Secretary of Defense, he will support and execute the President’s vision for our military,” Jarrett writes. “That includes continuing the President’s historic support for gay and lesbian service members, and overseeing the continued implementation of the full repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ The President is fully committed to ensuring that all of our service members and military families are treated equally. He is confident that, as Secretary of Defense, Senator Hagel will ensure that all who serve the country we love are treated equally — no matter who they love.”

The only problem is that Hagel both supported the Defense of Marriage At, and opposed the repeal of DOMA. Of course those were in the 1990s, but, still.

“Recently, some in the LGBT community have expressed concerns about Senator Hagel’s past comments,” Jarrett continues. “In response, Senator Hagel issued a statement in which he apologized for comments that he made in the 1990s, and affirmed both his commitment to LGBT civil rights as well as his support for open service and the families of gay and lesbian service members.”

“One of the great successes of the LGBT civil rights movement is that it provides the space and opportunity for people to change their hearts and minds, to right past wrongs, and, over time, to evolve. The President believes Senator Hagel’s statement of apology, and his commitment to ensuring that all service members and their families are treated equally. The President would not have chosen him unless he had every confidence that, working together, they will continue to ensure that our military and DoD civilian workforce are as welcoming, inclusive, and respectful as possible.”

So, whether or not you believe Senator Hagel (I do), let’s all take a moment to blame the messenger.

Valerie Jarrett also has a troubled past with the LGBT community — and not going as far back as the 1990s.

In October, 2010, Jarrett called being gay a “lifestyle choice,” to great and appropriate outrage. Jarrett was forced to apologize.

Then, just a week later, Jarrett lied about the Department of Justice and its role in Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, claiming the DOJ was legally required to defend DADT in court. The DOJ made clear it wan’t required to defend DOMA in court — and DADT was no different.

The President’s choice of Hagel is no doubt contentious, but throwing Valerie Jarrett — whose own reputation with the LGBT community is soiled, doesn’t do him any good.

By the way, OutServe-SLDN and the Courage Campaign support Hagel.

Frankly, that McCain and Lindsey Graham and other GOP wing nuts don’t almost makes me want to.

Lastly, John Aravosis:

“I will say that I have growing concerns, not about Hagel, but about the gay Republican group Log Cabin Republicans, and whether we are witnessing another gay organization in a payola, pay-for-play, -type scandal that we previously had with GLAAD (and AT&T) and the NGLTF (and gambling interests), where both gay groups weighed in on an issue that didn’t seem to have a terribly gay angle, only to later found out that a not-gay-at-all outside interest was pulling their strings, and undermining our own community and its ongoing credibility,” Aravosis, founder of AmericaBlog, writes:

What makes Log Cabin’s new-found interest in anti-gay Republicans so curious is Log Cabin’s long-standing disinterest in standing up to anti-gay Republicans.  Log Cabin had no problem defending John Ashcroft, when he was attacked for his anti-gay comments about Hormel.  And Log Cabin had no problem getting in bed with Mitt Romney, when the GOP presidential candidate renounced pretty much every pro-gay position he had previously ever held.

Log Cabin’s tag line on the ad is “Chuck Hagel’s apology: Too little, too late.”  One could use the same tag line about Log Cabin’s sudden interest in standing up to anti-gay Republicans.

Image via Wikimedia

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Elaine Clisham January 7, 2013 at 4:58 pm

For what it may be worth, there's this:

David Badash January 7, 2013 at 5:03 pm

I have no strong opinion on Hagel, because, to your point in the Atlantic piece, what LGBT group has sat down with him? Frankly, in 1998, what GOP elected official would have been supportive of LGBT people. I think we have to allow for "evolution."
And frankly, as I and as Aravosis suggested, the factions behind the anti-Hagel attacks make me think perhaps he's a good choice.
The swiftboating of Hagel is not surprising, but its lack of sophistication is.

JayJonson January 8, 2013 at 11:12 am

The problem with Hagel is that he gave absolutely no indication that he supported the repeal of DADT until his name was floated as a possible nominee for secretary of DADT. It is not the responsibility of gay groups to keep tabs on the possible evolution of bigots. If Hagel had "evolved" in regard to the repeal of DADT, he could very easily have told a reporter when DADT repeal was in the news in 2009 or 2010. Instead, he was silent, which I suppose was a little better than the ugly opposition to repeal he stated earlier. I have absolutely no respect of the LCR and whoever is funding their ads, or for the Republicans who would oppose anyone Obama chose, but opposition to Hagel on the basis of his own words and positions is not "swiftboating." To swiftboat someone is to lie about them. Hagel's anti-gay record is long and public and unremitting. It takes some doing to earn zero ratings from the HRC. Moreover, it is not just that he did not vote the right way, he was an outspoken opponent of gay rights and gay people.

JayJonson January 8, 2013 at 11:16 am

One more thing, it is a little weird to read what is apparently an endorsement of Hagel, whose record of anti-gay activism is long and ugly, couched as criticism of Valerie Jarrett. As far as I know, Ms. Jarrett never said anything as reprehensible as the things Hagel has said about gay people, nor has she cast votes against the rights of glbt people.

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