Friday, December 21, 2012

Israel Firsters, LGBT groups, target anticipated nomination of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense

Conservative Hagel, right, with younger, liberal
brother Tom, the only known American siblings
to serve in the same infantry squad in Vietnam.
Update: Today, an aide to Hagel relayed the following to Politico:
My comments 14 years ago in 1998 were insensitive. They do not reflect my views or the totality of my public record, and I apologize to Ambassador Hormel and any LGBT Americans who may question my commitment to their civil rights. I am fully supportive of ‘open service’ and committed to LGBT military families.”
Conservative groups have been critical of the prospect of a Chuck Hagel nomination for Secretary of Defense because they see Hagel, who almost died for his country in Vietnam, as insufficiently supportive of Israel — which sent no troops either to Vietnam or, as dozens of other countries did, to Kuwait during the Gulf War in the early 1990s.
     Yesterday, Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said Hagel's “consistent anti-LGBT” record” in the Senate raise serious questions about where he stands today and that “The next secretary of defense must be supportive of open service as well as equal benefits for lesbian and gay military families, and Sen. Hagel must address these issues immediately. Whomever is selected to be the next secretary ... needs to understand there are clear expectations for progress.”
     Griffin's remarks were distributed to the Washington Post and other mainstream news outlets but were not available today in the News Releases page of HRC's website or anywhere else there that AKSARBENT looked.
     OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson also issued a statement: "At OutServe-SLDN, we expect that anyone being considered by the President for the Secretary of Defense post would embrace one of the signature accomplishments of this administration — the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' — and would be prepared to demonstrate his or her firm commitment to fairness and equality for our nation's men and women in uniform," Robinson said.
     In 1999, Hagel told the New York Times said he opposed repealing DADT, saying “the U.S. armed forces aren’t some social experiment.”
     In respect of President Clinton's nominee for ambassador to Luxembourg, gay meat scion James Hormel, Hegal told the Omaha World-Herald: “They [ambassadors] are representing America. 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.”
Hagel said in the article that he had a good chat with Hormel and described him as a “nice fellow.” The GOP senator also made clear that he was not opposed to appointing a gay ambassador.
     He and others took issue with Hormel’s openness and advocacy on gay-rights issues.
     Hagel pointed to a documentary film that Hormel helped fund that showed teachers how they could teach children about homosexuality. Hagel also cited a separate clip showing Hormel at what Hagel described as an anti-Catholic event in San Francisco that featured a group of drag queens known as the “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.”
     “It is very clear on this tape that he’s laughing and enjoying the antics of an anti-Catholic gay group in this gay parade,” Hagel said at the time, citing the majority status of Catholics in Luxembourg. “I think it’s wise for the president not to go forward with this nomination.”
     Today, Hagel supporters were in full damage control mode in the pages of an even-handed World-Herald treatment of the story.
     The former Nebraska Senator's defenders pointed out that the senator did not stand in the way of Hormel’s appointment advancing through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, of which he was a member.
     Nor did Hagel organize opposition to Hormel. Hagel never had a chance to vote up or down on the Senate floor because the Republican leadership never allowed a vote. Clinton ultimately gave Hormel the job through a recess appointment.
     Deb Fiddelke, who was Hagel’s communications director in 1998, came to Hagel’s defense on Thursday.
     “Any group can take any quote out of context and try and create a larger issue and because of the situation, Sen. Hagel can’t speak back right now and defend himself,” Fiddelke told The World-Herald in a front page story today by Joseph Morton and Roseann Moring.
     For years HRC awarded Hagel goose-egg ratings for his hostility to legislation addressing fairer treatment of LGBT folk, but in 2005, Hagel, who opposed marriage equality, also opposed a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
“I’m a conservative. I believe the sanctity of the Constitution of the United States is very important,” he said. “I don’t think you need a constitutional amendment defining marriage.

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