The "Kill Chuck" cabal brings out the big guns to block Chuck Hagel's path to the Pentagon: Teh Gays! (And the top gun promptly goes MIA)
It may not be a scientifically accurate way of choosing up sides, but sometimes one's estimation of a person is affected by the caliber of the enemies he racks up. And on that count, I have to say, I'm becoming a bigger and bigger fan of former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel -- as we're told, a leading candidate to replace Leon Pannetta as defense secretary (as if anyone could replace Leon Pannetta).
If you haven't yet read Howie's Monday post "AIPAC Agent Eliot Engel Goes After Obama Cabinet Pick As Being Too Anti-Israel," I encourage you to do so, to make the acquaintance of some of the prime movers in what we might call the "Kill Chuck" Cabal. There are, first, the minions of AIPAC, the cross-us-at-your-frigging-peril lobbying powerhouse of the American "Israel Can Do No Wrong" lobby, and then there's the conservative Republican establishment, and especially the neo-cons, who are still smarting from Chuck's uppitiness in his last years in the Senate, in particular his stark turnabout on the Iraq war, which he initially supported but came to see as a massive mistake.
This ground has now been covered well by The New Yorker's Connie Bruck, in the blogpost "Chuck Hagel and His Enemies."
THE TAKE-NO-PRISONERS ISRAEL PROPAGANDISTS
Then-Senators Hagel and Obama at the
Amman Citadel in Jordan in July 2008
Amman Citadel in Jordan in July 2008
"Hagel's most vocal critics," Bruck writes, "have been members of what can be called the Israel lobby."
Their enmity for Hagel goes back to his two terms in the Senate. A committed supporter of Israel and, also, of a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine, Hagel did not make the obeisance to the lobby that the overwhelming majority of his Congressional colleagues do. And he further violated a taboo by talking about the lobby, and its power. In his 2008 book, "The Much Too Promised Land," Aaron Miller interviewed Hagel, whom he described as "a strong supporter of Israel and a believer in shared values." Miller also wrote, "Of all my conversations, the one with Hagel stands apart for its honesty and clarity." He quoted Hagel saying that Congress "is an institution that does not inherently bring out a great deal of courage." The American Israel Public Affairs Committee comes knocking with a pro-Israel letter, Hagel continued, and "then you'll get eighty or ninety senators on it. I don't think I've ever signed one of the letters" -- because, he added, they were "stupid." Hagel also said, "The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here," but "I'm a United States senator. I'm not an Israeli senator."Unfortunately, at one point in his interview with Miller, Hagel made the crucial error of referring to the "Jewish lobby" instead of the "Israel lobby." Of course, to the people who pounced on that as proof of anti-Semitism, there is not supposed to be any difference. In their view, anyone who voices any word in any way critical of the government of Israel is by definition an anti-Semite.
Bruck goes on to call the roll of brain-dead Israel propagandists who have pounced: Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard, who lies so persistently that one wonders if he would, if he could tell the truth if his life depended on it; right-wing Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, quoting Anti-Defamation League chief Abraham Foxman, a once-serious person whose brain has long since turned to toxic slime; the Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens. She also quotes some Jewish voices of sanity, including "pro-Israel stalwart" NY Rep. Gary Ackerkman ("You know, not everybody who disagrees with Israel's policies is anti-Semitic, otherwise half the Jewish population of Israel would be anti-Semitic!") and Alon Pinkas, "a former Israeli consul general in New York and the chief of staff to Prime Minister Ehud Barak," who --
wrote in Al-Monitor recently that he got to know Hagel during Hagel's various meetings with Barak. "Barak was thoroughly impressed not only by Hagel's military background, but by his analysis, knowledge of the Middle East, and his understanding of Israel's security issues and predicaments," Pinkas wrote. Hagel "is not anti-Israeli and he is not an anti-Semite. In fact, if I were him, I would lodge a complaint with the Anti-Defamation League, asking their assistance and support for being unfairly called an anti-Semite."
BUT IT'S NOT JUST THE "ISRAEL LOBBY" ON THE ATTACK
"The Israel lobby led the charge against Hagel, but there is plenty of animus for him in the broader Republican party, too."
After first voting for the Iraq war, Hagel became one of its most vocal critics, working with Democrats to try to change the direction of the Bush Administration's policy. In 2007, he and his friend Joe Biden, then the Democratic senator who was chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sponsored a resolution opposing the "surge" and calling for a transition to a limited U.S. military mission in Iraq. The committee approved the resolution; Hagel was the only Republican to vote in favor. "I was called a 'traitor,' and I was called 'disgusting,' " Hagel told me when I wrote about him in 2008. " 'Shut your mouth, you're a Republican!' Which I always found astounding -- to equate war based on your politics, as a Democrat or a Republican."NYRB's Washington observer, Elizabeth Drew, has also weighed in, in a blogpost called "The Preemptive War on Hagel," which begins:
Far more is at stake in Barack Obama's decision on whether to nominate Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense than whether Chuck Hagel is nominated. What the president decides will bear on: his effectiveness in his second term; any president's ability to form a government; whether an independent voice can be raised on a highly sensitive issue in opposition to the views of a powerful lobby and still be named to a significant government position; whether there is actually a proper nominating system; whether McCarthyite tactics can still be effective more than half a century after they were rejected by a fed-up nation. And, by the way, what will be the direction of American policy in the Middle East? In particular, how adventurous will we be toward Iran? Have we learned anything from the calamitous foreign policy blunders of the past decade? . . .
NOW IT APPEARS THAT THE "KILL CHUCK"-ERS
HAVE BROUGHT OUT THEIR REALLY BIG GUNS
Or maybe we should call them their "big tools": the Log Cabin Republicans.
In a December 20 report, BuzzFeed's Zeke Miller reported:
Former Sen. Chuck Hagel -- a finalist for the post of secretary of defense in Obama's second term -- once opposed a nominee to be U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg because he was "openly aggressively gay."Almost immediately Hagel issued an apology. BuzzFeed's Chris Geidner reports:
“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."
Some LGBT rights groups are already criticizing the potential selection of Hagel to replace Leon Panetta.
Hagel was a longtime supporter of "don't ask, don't tell," which banned gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. In 1999, he told The New York Times, ''The U.S. armed forces aren't some social experiment.''
And between 2001 and 2006, Hagel received a score of zero from the Human Rights Council, with no votes on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a job discrimination bill, and the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which eventually was passed into law as part of the National Defense Authorization Act in 2009.
Hagel's record on LGBT issues did show some signs of change, as the country shifted dramatically on the subject. He voted in favor of a procedural vote on the 2004 constitutional amendment aimed at limiting marriage to one man and one woman, but opposed the marriage amendment in 2006.
UPDATE: Hagel didn't vote on the marriage amendment in 2004, though he voted in favor of a procedural motion to bring up the final vote.
Hagel called the comments "insensitive" and said, "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."However, Chris reports that the Log Cabin Republicans ("a national group for LGBT Republicans" haven't accepted the apology. What's more, "The group bought an ad in The New York Times Thursday painting the potential Defense Secretary nominee as 'wrong' on 'gay rights,' Israel, and Iran." Chris reports further:
Log Cabin's leader, R. Clarke Cooper, acknowledged that the apology is not referenced in the ad and that "[l]awmakers can and do change position . . . for the better on the LGBT equality portfolio." He told BuzzFeed, however, that his group "question[s] the sincerity" of Hagel's apology.
All of which brought forth this response from a colleague, David Fiderer:
Since when has "sincerity" been a standard by which Log Cabin Republicans judged anyone in public office from their own party?
Did they question the sincerity of any politician who failed to oppose the GOP platform to make marriage equality unconstitutional?
Whenever anyone in politics judges someone else's "sincerity," he's probably insincere.
And David also raised the question of who paid for the ad. Did our Clarke just dip into LCR petty cash? NYT full-pagers don't come cheap. (More from David in a moment.)
OH, ONE MORE THING ABOUT CLARKE COOPER:
AS OF MONDAY, HE'S HISTORY WITH THE LCRs
Oops, Clarkie forgot to mention that he's, y'know, outtahere!
Are you ready for this? Here are the LCRs, locked in a fierce assault on a potential DoD nominee, to the extent of taking out a full-page ad in the NYT, which we all know doesn't come cheap, which again raises the question of who the heck paid for that ad? And now, mere seconds later, Mr. LCR is history, and he told everybody about it in October only nobody seems to have thought this development in any way relevant to . . . well, anything.
I don't know what the heck is going on. I just know that none of this makes a lot of sense to me. David Fiderer has done some speculating, observing, "He steps down just after he bought a full-page ad in the NY Times slamming Chuck Hagel? Surely the timing is a coincidence," then adding:
I think Cooper had a deal with a K Street lobbying firm, which arranged for the NYT ad to be placed. Do you really think that Log Cabin has the kind of money to drop for a full-page ad to go after a Republican who said something homophobic 14 years ago? That category includes just about every GOPer on Capitol Hill.So Clarkie is LCR history, but as far as I can tell, the LCR fatwa against Chuck Hagel is still in effect, and LGBT people across the political spectrum are still expected to serve as the wedge that keeps the so-and-so from becoming secretary of defense. All right, man (and woman) the barricades, guys 'n' gals!