In spite of extreme recent polarity, Congress has now collectively agreed to pick on Chuck Hagel.
Hagel, former Republican Senator and Purple Heart winner, joins Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), as one of the newest appointments to the Obama administration’s second term cabinet. However unlike Kerry, Hagel faces steady opposition from Republicans and Democrats alike.
Though both sides agree to dislike Hagel, he is able to be a strong secretary of defense.
Most of Hagel’s criticism comes from previous comments he’s made about Israel and gay rights — both should be dismissed.
The inappropriate criticism of Hagel’s views of Israel resulted from Hagel once describing the Israel lobby as the “Jewish lobby.” He also bluntly stated that his job was not to take orders from the lobby, but to advance U.S. interests. Because of these comments, he’s been smeared as an anti-Semite.
The United States can and should be pro-Israel, while disagreeing with Israeli policy.
Zealotry from the right-wing extremists in Israeli government are making enemies because they refuse to work with people simply because of minute disagreements in policy. Merely disagreeing with policy does not make one an Israel-basher.
On the other side, liberals have been scrutinizing Hagel’s comments and policy positions on social issues. In 1998, President Bill Clinton chose James Hormel as his appointment as an ambassador for Luxembourg. Chuck Hagel opposed his appointment because of Hormel’s open homosexuality.
As disgusting and unprogressive as his position was, we need to remember the time period. Thirteen years has moved heaven and earth for gay rights activists. Just two years before Hagel’s comments, 68% of Americans opposed gay marriage — that number is down to 40% opposition, according to Gallup polls.
Moreover, two years after those comments were made Nebraska passed Initiative 416 by 70 percent, prohibiting same-sex couples from being recognized with marriage or civil union, according to the Nebraska Secretary of State Election Results.
It was not until May 9, 2012 that President Obama indicated his support for same-sex marriage. Why would we expect a Conservative from Nebraska to announce his support in 1998?
Chuck Hagel denies accusations that he is a homophobe, and I take his word for it.
He was merely a politician who worried more about his job and poll numbers than doing the right thing. You’d be hard pressed to find a politician who isn’t.
As secretary of defense, polling will not be on his priorities.
Both political parties are outraged about Hagel’s past, but I believe it is time to look at his current positions and the future he can usher in for the Obama administration.
In a public letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Hagel outlined where he stood on both military and social policy.
On the issue of Israel, Hagel said in his letter that the US and Israel relationship is “one that is fundamentally built on our nations shared values, common interests, and democratic ideals."He also expressed regret for his choice of words regarding the pro-Israel lobby.
On the issue of gay rights, Hagel agreed with the Pentagon’s repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and said, “I will do everything possible to the extent permissible under current law to provide equal benefits to the families of all our service members."”
Additionally, on the issue of sexual assault and women’s reproductive health care options, Hagel steadfastly gave his support of continuing the Pentagon’s new policies to crack down on assault. He also wants female soldiers to have the same rights as private citizens regarding reproductive health care decisions.
Simply stated, if confirmed, Chuck Hagel has invaluable insight for the military.
Critics forget that President Obama still has final say over policy and that Hagel will not be emperor. Many of Hagel’s positions indicate a level-minded, anti-war hawk attitude when it comes to foreign policy.
After the killing of Osama Bin Laden, Hagel encouraged a swift withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, called the defense budget ‘bloated,’ and has publicly endorsed a plan to reduce nuclear arms in the US by 80 percent.
Moreover, as a former Purple Heart Vietnam veteran, Hagel understands the value and risk of American lives and did not support the surge despite pressure from his own party.
If politicians and pundits want to discuss disagreements with Hagel over legitimate policy differences, and his refusal to support the Iraq War and most of the Bush Doctrine, so be it.
But the character assassinations must stop. Chuck Hagel deserves to be given a chance.