Chuck Hagel gets reinforcement from gay rights advocates, but White House is wobbling

Israel/Palestine
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A lot going on on the Chuck Hagel front. The possible Defense Secretary nominee got hammered on the talk shows yesterday not only by Israel lobbyist Chuck Schumer but by rightwingers Lindsey Graham and Joe “serious doubts” Lieberman— to the point that the National Journal reports that lilylivered Obama is wavering on his former friend and looking to other candidates.

But the gay man whom Hagel slurred 14 years ago has accepted Hagel’s apology; and Hagel has gotten backing from Steve Clemons, pushing back against the idea that Hagel is against gay rights. Also, Hagel continues to get backup from liberal Zionists, the liberal Israel lobby whom Obama was said to have believed he could depend on. And liberals and realists (check out Robert Naiman’s petition) are behind him. But Obama evidently believes in Joe Lieberman. Backward looking.

(If Chuck Hagel goes down, will it be with a bang or a whimper? Will he blame the Israel lobby that has shot so many arrows into him in recent days? I think he will, for the sake of his country; I think he’ll address the number one issue, Israel-Palestine, in an important speech, and gain a stature that Obama and high office couldn’t have given him anyway. In Hagel’s book, he often speaks of a third party. Well, maybe now’s the time.)

Here’s the wrapup:

Michael Hirsh at National Journal says the White House is wavering on Chuck Hagel:

Besieged by criticism from right and left, and considerable skepticism from his former Senate colleagues, Chuck Hagel appears to be following the path of Susan Rice as a trial-balloon nominee who finds himself quickly losing altitude in Washington. And as happened with Rice, the White House  is now signaling that it may soon puncture Hagel’s hopes…

A senior administration official told National Journal on Sunday that it was “fair” to say Obama is considering candidates other than Hagel for Defense secretary, in particular Michele Flournoy, who was under secretary of Defense for policy in Obama‘s first term, and Ashton Carter, the current deputy Defense secretary. Only a week ago, Bloomberg News reported that Hagel was Obama’s top choice.

The White House‘s revised characterization of Hagel’s standing came after what was, for the former Republican senator, a particularly discouraging series of comments on the Sunday-morning talk shows. Outgoing Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent, told CNN’s “State of the Union” that it would be “a very tough confirmation process,”

Jerry Haber urges Obama to press forward:

Chuck Hagel may be Israel’s last chance for survival as a Jewish democracy. That’s why liberal hawks like Goldberg are partial to him.  Given my positions, I should be supporting a secretary of state that assists Israel in going over the cliff (like Hillary). But this is one cliff I prefer avoiding.  

Josh Marshall says it’s an ugly spectacle for which Obama is responsible (though he does not comment on the Israel lobby angle):

it’s the White House’s responsibility to make some level of intention clear and not allow these things to take on a life of their own in the media, if that is in fact what is happening.

The Israel Policy Forum, a liberal Zionist org, is also standing up for him. Peter Joseph:

His description of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the “strategic epicenter” of the Middle East have been subsequently reflected by CENTCOM chief General James Mattis, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, former CIA Director General David Petraeus and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who have all similarly identified resolving the Arab-Israeli dispute as critical for advancing regional stability and American interests.

None of this should be considered dangerous for the United States or the State of Israel.

Former Ambassador James Hormel, the subject of Hagel’s anti-gay slur in 1998, uses Facebook to accept Hagel’s apology:

Senator Hagel’s apology is significant–I can’t remember a time when a potential presidential nominee apologized for anything. While the timing appears self-serving, the words themselves are unequivocal–they are a clear apology. Since 1998, fourteen years have passed, and public attitudes have shifted–perhaps Senator Hagel has progressed with the times, too.’

The Human Rights Campaign has also accepted Hagel’s apology:

“Senator Hagel’s apology and his statement of support for LGBT equality is appreciated and shows just how far as a country we have come when a conservative former Senator from Nebraska can have a change of heart on LGBT issues,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “Our community continues to add allies to our ranks and we’re proud that Senator Hagel is one of them.”

And here’s a petition at Moveon that urges Obama to go through with the nomination.

President Obama wants to nominate Senator Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense. Hagel wants to end the war in Afghanistan, prevent war with Iran, and make reasonable cuts to the Pentagon budget. Some right-wing groups are trying to scuttle the nomination by making up lies about Hagel’s record. Show President Obama you have his back in nominating his first choice, Chuck Hagel, by signing this petition.

Finally, Steve Clemons has a wonderful piece up at Huffington Post affirming Hagel’s support for gay rights and urging Obama to nominate him. “The Chuck Hagel I Know: A Staunch Defender of Gay Rights”:

Chuck Hagel will be strongly supportive of the gains of the LGBT community in our national life — and particularly in our military and intelligence services — if indeed President Obama nominates this great strategic and military thinker to succeed Leon Panetta.

Update: Sullivan, great as always, “Grow a Pair, Mr. President:”

Let’s just say that if Obama allows Bill Kristol to scalp a Purple Heart veteran for defense – then he will be betraying the core base that got him the nomination and the presidency twice. People didn’t vote for Obama to get a neoconservative-dictated foreign policy. First the smearing and scalping of Rice; now the brutal AIPAC-led campaign against Hagel. I say: let the hearings begin, and let Hagel debate the wisdom of the Iraq war with those who campaigned so ferociously for it. Let a Purple Heart veteran Republican take on Bill Kristol and Dick Cheney

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