According to Politico, President Obama will nominate former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense on Monday. For those dreading the current, post-fiscal cliff lull in political bickering, the announcement will come as great news; Hagel has already faced criticism for anti-gay remarks in 1998, an interview in which he discussed the "Jewish lobby" in 2007, and for breaking ranks with Republicans during the Iraq War.
"Ambassadorial posts are sensitive," Hagel told to the Omaha World-Herald in 1998, opposing the nomination of philanthropist James Hormel. "They are representing America," he said. "They are representing our lifestyle, our values, our standards. And I think it is an inhibiting factor to be gay - openly aggressively gay like Mr. Hormel - to do an effective job."
He later apologized, calling the statement "insensitive," but as a result of that bit of 14-year-old stupidity, an LGBT military group, Outserve-SLDN, is calling for Hagel to put forth "demonstratable actions" showing his commitment to LGBT service members, including extending benefits to same-sex military families.
So there's that. Of course, as far as political liability goes, one-time homophobia pales in comparison to criticizing Israel, as Hagel did in a 2007 interview, saying that the "Jewish lobby intimidated lawmakers." That statement has gone over about as well as you'd expect.
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham told CNN: "Hagel, if confirmed to be secretary of defense, would be the most antagonistic secretary of defense towards the state of Israel in our nation's history." Graham also described Hagel as "very antagonistic towards the state of Israel and the issues we jointly face." Texas Senator Ted Cruz had some similar criticisms:
"It's interesting, the president seems bound and determined to proceed down this path despite the fact that Hagel's record is very, very troubling on the nation of Israel," Cruz said. "He has not been a friend to Israel. And in my view the United States should stand unshakably with Israel."
It's not just conservatives who are upset about the Israel comments; Democrats, including Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Eliot Engel, have criticized Hagel for the interview.
But aside from the "Jewish lobby" and "aggressively gay" comments, Hagel does have some noteworthy qualifications for the job: most notably, he broke party ranks during the Iraq war, voted against labeling Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, and is a well-decorated veteran of Vietnam. Said a Democratic aide to Politico:
"Chuck Hagel is a decorated war hero who would be the first enlisted soldier and Vietnam veteran to go on to serve as secretary of defense. He had the courage to break with his party during the Iraq War, and would help bring the war in Afghanistan to an end while building the military we need for the future.
"He has been a champion for troops, veterans and military families through his service at the VA and USO, and his leadership on behalf of the post-9/11 GI Bill. The president knows him well, has traveled with him to Iraq and Afghanistan, trusts him and believes he represents the proud tradition of a strong, bipartisan foreign policy in the United States."
So yes, do yourself a favor and stay away from cable news for the next two weeks/forever.
[Image via AP]