This nomination has been in trouble for a while.
Sure, it looks sweet and bipartisan at first glance, and even rational, to appoint a Republican to head the Defense Department. And, it might have had the added benefit of making Republicans look intransigent if they opposed one of their own. But it turns out the Hagel pick brought left and right together like nothing else in this town. Rich Lowry of National Review urged, “Please, let’s have a partisan appointment for secretary of defense.”
I mean, how often is it that Sen. Chuck Schumer and I oppose a nominee for the same reasons?
The comments about gays was only one part of Hagel’s problem, and not the major problem. Much more problematic, especially for Schumer and other members of the Senate, are Hagel’s past statements about a “Jewish lobby” controlling US policy, and stands on Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas that put Hagel to the left of Barack Obama and well into a political fringe.
None of this should have come as a surprise to the White House. Hagel made all of those statements very publicly, and took criticism for them at the time. The Obama administration, however, has been singularly poor at vetting its Cabinet choices. Anyone remember the trial balloons of Bill Richardson and Tom Daschle, for instance? Or the actual appointment of Tim Geithner to run the Treasury Department when he had gotten in trouble for failing to file his income taxes? The Hagel bust isn’t an anomaly; it’s business as usual at the White House.
Outgoing Rep. Barney Frank Monday denounced the idea of former Sen. Chuck Hagel being considered for secretary of defense, arguing the Nebraska conservative has demonstrated a clear pattern of bigotry and and a track record of being “against fairness for LGBT people.”
Hagel’s 1998 opposition to former President Bill Clinton nominee James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg — when he accused Hormel of being “aggressively gay” — has angered some LGBT groups, although Hagel recently apologized for the remarks.
“I cannot think of any other minority group in the U.S. today where such a negative statement and action made in 1998 would not be an obstacle to a major Presidential appointment,” Frank said in the statement.
On Meet the Press this Sunday, President Obama said otherwise, telling NBC’s David Gregory that he did not see the comments as disqualifying.
Frank, however, disagrees.
Democratic senator and former Klansmen Robert Byrd used the n-word twice in a national interview in 2001 and if not for his age would surely have been accepted by the rest of his party for a nomination during his tenure, so I’m not sure I’m with Frank on that part, but I digress.
Now, from the left comes this warning: Hagel, the enemy of liberals’ enemies, shouldn’t be their friend
Since the Iraq War, a sizable and apparently growing segment of the liberal punditocracy has lost its way on foreign policy. Politicians and writers on the left, including many liberals, have been so repulsed by the Bush administration’s policies abroad that they have often assumed, almost reflexively, that whatever Bush and the Fox News crowd favored was ipso facto wrong and its opposite ipso facto correct. This delusion seemed to turn many progressives into sour realists, intent on abdicating any American leadership role in the world, even a liberal and humane one. It especially infected their thinking on the Middle East, where they have been slow to recognize the dangers of Islamists like Recep Erdogan in Turkey and Mohammed Morsi in Egypt, eager to minimize the dangers of a nuclear Iran, and, in the case of one strain of progressives, displaying the inordinate animus towards Israel that was once confined to the far left, in places like the Nation and the Village Voice, but now finds a home on the New York Times op-ed page and other mainstream liberal outlets.
It is this same perversity of thinking that has led too many liberals to fall in love with Hagel. Because the likes of Wolfowitz and Senor are against him, the thinking goes, we should be for him. (Never mind that Hagel is politically well to the right of Wolfowitz and Senor and most other so-called neoconservatives.) So, for example, on the Times’s op-ed page, James Besser, a former reporter for The Jewish Week, in a piece called “Don’t Let Pro-Israel Extremists Sink Chuck Hagel,” declines to argue the case for Hagel on its merits, offering only the perfectly unobjectionable argument that the lunatic right, which imagines Obama a Muslim and enemy of Israel, shouldn’t be allowed a veto over his Cabinet appointments. The headline itself implies that the decision should be a referendum on Hagel’s most obnoxious opponents—rather than a referendum on Hagel himself.
And, just to top off the weirdness, and rile liberals further, the likely second choice for DefSec Michele Flournoy gets a nod from…Paul Wolfowitz. Those tricky, sexist Republicans, criticizing an old, white man of their own party while arguing for the elevation of the first female Secretary of Defense.