I knew he served with distinction in Vietnam. I’d forgotten that he also served with distinction in the war on women.
When he announced his candidacy for Senate, Hagel said that he opposed abortion except to protect the life of the mother and in cases of rape and incest. Hagel decided he didn’t believe that exclusion for rape were necessary after studying the issue near the end of his campaign.
“I am pro-life with one exception — the life of the mother. I oppose taxpayer funded abortions. We must promote adoption and support the strengthening of American families. I will vote with and support the pro-life movement,” Hagel said in a piece of 1996 campaign literature, according to the Omaha World Herald.
Then Senate-candidate Hagel said that he “tightened” his position on abortion after he said he discovered that abortion in the case of rape and incest are “rare” according to multiple local press reports.
“As I looked at those numbers, if I want to prevent abortions, I don’t think those two exceptions are relevant,” Hagel said, according to the Omaha paper.
More relevantly, he also voted to prohibit abortions in military hospitals, a position that’s already been duly shrugged off by the loyal party soldiers of NARAL. Who cares how he used to vote in the Senate, the thinking goes, when we know he’ll dutifully implement whatever policy Obama wants as SecDef? And that’s true. To believe that this is an issue for Hagel, you have to believe that his commitment to pro-life principle exceeds his desire to have a cabinet position. Anyone believe that? He’s famous for adapting to the evolving conventional wisdom on foreign policy. Why wouldn’t he adapt to the conventional wisdom of the administration he’s joining too?
Meanwhile, Charles Cooke asks:
If a Bush appointee had said the things Hagel did on abortion, gays, and the draft, would Left be fine with him? I think not.
— Charles C. W. Cooke (@charlescwcooke) January 8, 2013
The most enjoyable consolation of Hagel being nominated is seeing how much slack his criticisms of Israel and the Iraq war have bought him with the left on domestic policy. He’s not just off the reservation on abortion and gays; he also voted against Dianne Feinstein’s attempt to revive the assault-weapons ban in 2004. But the dreaded wingnuts and neocons are lined up against him, and he certainly will prove useful in giving Obama “bipartisan” cover to slash the Pentagon’s budget in the years ahead, so they’re going to give him a wide berth no matter how many heresies pile up. (Obama mouthpiece Bill Burton went on TV just this morning to crow about the “huge cuts” that are coming to defense under Hagel.) He’s being hired to carry out someone else’s policy, not enact his own, so in theory none of this is a big deal. In theory. In practice, it’s awfully hard to square with basic partisan sentiment that the other side’s positions, especially on social issues, aren’t just mistaken and harmful but immoral or even monstrous. Chuck Hagel has (or had) pretty much all the same cultural views as the most “evil” conservatives do. How’d we get to the point where liberals are cool with having an evil SecDef? More grumbling about neocons, Chuck, stat.