The Campaign Spot



Actually, I did briefly think the Mayans knew something awful was going to happen this morning, when I couldn’t get my laptop to turn on. As you undoubtedly know, taking your computer to the tech guy at Staples or Best Buy or wherever is like a child going to the Principal’s office — all of a sudden, with a disapproving glare, the laptop’s behavior suddenly improves.

So in today’s slightly abbreviated edition of the Jolt:

Why Are Republicans Skeptical of Hagel? Hey, Why Are Democrats So Enthusiastic About Him?

Suddenly I get the feeling that Chuck Hagel’s expected nomination to be the next Secretary of Defense could very well end up succumbing to a left-right pincer movement of opposition.

Take a look at the latest Hagel nomination complication:

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.”

“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 replaced Leon Panetta.

Delicious. Think about how much we’ve had it pounded into our heads over the past fourteen years, by our media and political elites, that the act of believing that homosexuality is immoral or some sort of flaw represents the worst of hatred and bigotry in the modern world. And now think of all of those folks having to insist that the declaration “it is an inhibiting factor to be gay — openly aggressively gay like Mr. Hormel — to do an effective job” is no big deal. Obama and his friends are going to have to tie themselves into pretzels over this.

Sonny Bunch: “It really is remarkable how quickly Hagel’s chorus of supporters clammed up after the ‘aggressively gay’ comments came up. I’m impressed!”

Man, imagine what Hagel would think of a gay Zionist.

But gay and lesbian Democrats might not be the only folks shifting uncomfortably in their chairs as they examine Hagel’s past record. Matt Cooper writes:

It’s Hagel’s work on the environment that may prove to be a more nagging question — one hardly likely to derail a potential nomination but interesting nonetheless.

One of the first high profile things that Hagel worked on after coming to the U.S. Senate in 1997 was going after the Kyoto climate accord. He was a congressional observer at the meeting and, along with the late coal champion Sen. Robert Byrd, authored the resolution against it.

To be fair, that measure passed 95-0 and Hagel’s objections echoed that of many members, namely that too little was being asked of mega-polluters India and China. But it portended future opposition to environmental measures. Daily Kos reminds us that former Bush Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill recounts how, with Dick Cheney’s prodding, Hagel wrote a letter questioning new emissions standards put out by Christie Whitman’s EPA. Their full account is here.

All of this is relevant to the defense secretary’s job because of the huge energy impact the Pentagon has with all those ships, planes, trucks, troops, missiles, and helicopters.

So the anti-Hagel coalition is likely to include Iran outreach skeptics, defense spending fans, friends of Israel, gays and lesbians, and environmentalists. He’s a uniter, not a divider?

Alana Goodman, writing over at Contentions:

“Why make Democratic senators . . . walk the plank on this, when by finding a qualified Democrat, we can please the base?” a Jewish organization official told Mike Allen in the story above. Walking the plank is a good way to put it.

If Hagel is nominated, he will most likely get through, but it will be brutal for Democrats. Not just the confirmation process–though it will be embarrassing and damaging for Obama to have to defend some of the statements and positions Hagel’s critics will drag out. The real damage would come later–think of how the left demonized Donald Rumsfeld. Every move Hagel makes would be scrutinized and politicized. Anything controversial would be hung around the necks of the Democratic Party. For the most part, Republicans have gone easy on Obama’s defense secretaries, but that would change.

Josh Greenman, of the New York Daily News, summarizes what he calls the “Hagelian dialectic: trial balloon, thesis, antithesis, synthesis, nomination of someone else for Defense Secretary.”


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