The Discussion That Wasn’t

A commentary

Jim Burroway

January 8th, 2013

It’s official. Yesterday, President Barack Obama formally nominated former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) for Secretary of Defense. Obama’s announcement recounted Hagel’s qualifications: an enlisted Purple Heart veteran of the Vietnam War, Veterans Administration deputy administrator during the Reagan Administration, and serving on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Intelligence Committee in the Senate. He voted for the Iraq War, but became a vocal critic as the war’s execution was bungled by the Bush administration, something that people who have actually served in combat tend to do, much to the annoyance to those who convinced themselves they knew what they were doing. After retiring in 2009, he became chair of Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board, a move which the GOP sees as traitorous on par with Tokyo Rose. I don’t see how anyone can say he’s unfit to be Defense Secretary. They may disagree with him on policy — or Obama’s policies, more specifically — but we had an entire election where we got to debate those policies and Obama won. So here we are.

But there is that thing about Hagel’s anti-gay record, and it’s not a small thing. A full recap is in order, and this time I want to go over the full context rather than relying on drive-by pull-quotes. Let’s start at the beginning.

Hagel vs. Hormel, 1998
Fourteen years ago, President Bill Clinton nominated James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg. Senate Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) immediately set about blocking his nomination. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) was just one of many Senators on both sides of the aisle to express their concern for the appointment. Those expressions ranged from mild to wild, with Hagel staking out the wilder side. On July 3, 1998, Hagel expressed his concern to the Omaha World-Herald this way:

Ambassadorial posts are sensitive, Hagel explained.

“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.”

Hagel noted a documentary, filmed with money Hormel donated, that showed teachers how they could teach children about homosexuality. He said he had seen another video clip that showed Hormel at what Hagel called an anti-Catholic event in San Francisco, featuring the “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence,” a group of male drag queens.

“It is very clear on this tape that he’s laughing and enjoying the antics of an anti-Cathloic gay group in this gay parade,” Hagel said. “I think it’s wise for the president not to go forward with this nomination.”

Over the years Hormel, a former dean of the Chicago Law School, has given money to civil-rights groups, colleges, symphonies, and to groups fighting autism, breast cancer and AIDS. Hormel listed the contributions in a letter to a supporter, Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore. In the letter, Hormel said he provided “minor” support for the teacher documentary and had no control over its content.

The Log Cabin Republicans, a gay group, says the videotape from the San Francisco event resulted when men dressed as nuns walked past a broadcast booth where Hormel, a well-known civic leader in the city, was giving an interview to a local reporter.

Hormel’s homosexuality is not the problem, say Hagel and other opponents of the nomination. It’s his openness about being gay and his advocacy of some causes, they say.

Hagel, meanwhile, said a homosexual should not necessarily be disqualified from all ambassadorships.

His approach to nominees, he said, has been to examine the person’s qualifications first. The United States has had gay ambassadors in the past and gays in the military, who have done well by quietly adopting the Pentagon’s current “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude.

Hormel, however, has gone beyond that, Hagel said.

He “very aggressively told the world of his gayness and the funding and all the things he’s been involved in. I think you do go beyond common sense there, and reason and a certain amount of decorum,” Hagel said.

“If you send an ambassador abroad with a cloud of controversy hanging over him, then I think it’s unfair to our country, it’s unfair to the host country and it’s unfair to the ambassador because the effectiveness of that individual is going to be seriously curtailed. That’s just a fact of life. And I believe Hormel’s situation is one of those.”

It’s important to remember the context in 1998, when any kind of pro-gay gesture was fodder for anti-gay prejudice, whether it was attending a Pride parade — regardless of whether drag queens and Sisters were there or not — or suggesting that a discussion about the issues of LGBT youth. Fourteen years ago, those were areas that even our supporters feared to tread, and more often than not, they would inoculate themselves by bemoaning Pride parades and assuring a jittery public that nobody would come within a thousand miles of their children with material that might suggest that having two moms or experiencing “funny” feelings might be something to talk about.

I say that not to excuse or exonerate Hagel. Instead, it goes to show how powerful a cudgel Hagel wielded when he made those remarks to the World-Herald. That was in 1998, and Hagel would spend the next ten years in the Senate opposing nearly every pro-gay measure, racking up a very nearly perfect zero score on the Human Rights Campaign’s congressional scorecard. There were two exceptions: Hagel supported reauthorization of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which included an end to Jesse Helms’s cherished AIDS travel ban. That nudged his HRC score off of zero for 2007-2008, even though I’m unclear about whether he voted for it because of, despite, or with indifference to the lifting of the travel ban. The second exception was a bit smaller: He voted for the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2004, but didn’t cast a vote in 2006. Soon after, he voiced his opposition to the FMA, earning this rebuke from Focus On the Family.

But before we continue, it is important to note a few more things about Hagel’s term as Senator. LGBT issues aside (and his record in that area was deplorable), Hagel had earned a reputation as a moderate in the Senate. Those positions in today’s GOP would have made him a traitor, but just ten short years ago, when Hagel criticized the war in Iraq and the Bush Administration’s “war on terrorism” rhetoric as needlessly alarmist, and criticized the prison on Guantanamo as the reason the U.S. was “losing the image war around the world,” questioning things that were going wrong wasn’t yet a crime against nature. He voted against “No Child Left Behind”, but supported President Bush with the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, which would have provided a pathway to residency and citizenship for undocumented immigrants who have been in the country for five years. During Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) 2008 run for president, he floated Hagel’s name as someone who would make a good Secretary of State for a McCain Administration.

Hagel v. Hormel, 2012
Since Hagel’s retirement on January 3, 2009, he has stayed mostly out of the limelight, only to re-emerge over the past year or so. In 2011, he said that there was the Defense Department is “bloated”, and said that diplomats should, you know, engage in diplomacy, with Iran and Hamas. He now is being criticized for having said things like, “I’m not an Israeli senator. I’m a United States senator” — a statement that wasn’t nearly as controversial just a few short years ago in the GOP as it is today. He also, inelegantly, said that the “Jewish” lobby has too much influence. If he had said “Israeli lobby” instead, he would have been more accurate, but I don’t think it would have shielded him from accusations of being an anti-Semite since the dominant GOP trend now is to show what a strong “friend of Israel” you are by never contradicting Netanyahu on anything. In 2012, he endorsed Democrat Bob Kerrey in the race for an open U.S. Senate seat in Nebraska, and you just know that didn’t go over very well with fellow Republicans either.

So when rumors began to circulate that President Barack Obama was thinking about nominating Hagel for Defense Secretary, the knives were already out. Meanwhile, the LGBT community remembered Hagel’s comments to the Omaha World-Herald in 1998, a rediscovery which reopened a lot of old wounds in the LGBT community. HRC’s Chad Griffin said on December 20, “Senator Hagel’s unacceptable comments about gay people, coupled with his consistent anti-LGBT record in Congress, raise serious questions about where he stands on LGBT equality today.” Hagel moved quickly to try to put out that fire with this short statement to Politico on December 21:

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.”

Naturally, given the timing and brevity of Hagel’s statement, Hormel’s initial reaction was negative:

“I have not received an apology,” Hormel, who is a major figure in Democratic politics, told me. “I thought this so-called apology, which I haven’t received, but which was made public, had the air of being a defensive move on his part.” Hormel added that the apology appeared to have been given “only in service of his attempt to get the nomination.”

But a few hours later, after Hormel had a chance to think it over, he issued this statement accepting Hagel’s apology and supporting his nomination:

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. His action affords new stature to the LGBT constituency, whose members still are treated as second class citizens in innumerable ways. Senator Hagel stated in his remarks that he was willing to support open military service and LGBT military families. If that is a commitment to treat LGBT service members and their families like everybody else, I would support his nomination.

As Hormel says, there has been a huge shift in public opinion since 1998. Actually, you don’t have to go back that far to see a strong shift. You only have to go back to 2008, the year that Hagel voted to rescind the HIV travel ban but voiced support for DADT, and the year that he retired from the Senate. That same year, Californians voted 52.2% to 47.8% to strip gays and lesbians of their right to marry. Voters in Arizona and Florida also enshrined discrimination into their state constitutions. In 2009, Maine voters rejected a bill granting same-sex marriage by 52.9% to 47.1%.

But three short years later, in 2012, Maine voters reversed themselves on the same question by very nearly the same margin, 52.7% to 47.3%. Voters in Washington and Maryland — with substantial support even from GOP voters — also approved marriage equality bills, and Minnesota voters rejected an attempt to deface their constitution with discrimination. In that same short time span, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed with bipartisan support; the New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire legislatures enacted marriage equality, also with bipartisan support; former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA), who had authored the “Defense of Marriage Act,” came out for DOMA’s repeal; and two current GOP representatives are cosponsoring a bill to do just that.

That represents a huge sea change in LGBT politics in just four years. Of course, not all Republicans are participating in that change. Among elected officials and party activists, the vast majority are not, as evidenced by what was perhaps the GOP’s most overtly homophobic platform in history. But taken together, that represents an extraordinarily wide spectrum within the Republican Party, with people like Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL, and a vice chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus) on one end and Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX, retrograde) on the other. It’s safe to say that Hagel falls somewhere within that very wide spectrum, but exactly where he is we don’t know.

Unwarranted Attacks
And the way things are shaping up, few of our so-called “advocates” are interested in finding out. I can’t think of another context in which a politician who had previously had a pretty solid anti-gay voting record and who had, just a few short years later, voiced support LGBT Americans’ civil rights — and those were his words — only to have everyone evaluate that transformation not in terms of what it means for LGBT Americans, but strictly through the lens of unrelated politics. And in this case, it seems to be politics related to whether Israel or America determines American foreign policy. At least that’s how Log Cabin Republicans appear to have framed the issue. When rumors first began circulating that Hagel was being considered for Defense Secretary, L. Clarke Cooper responded on December 14:

Speaking for himself and not for LCR, Cooper wrote in an email, “I recall working with Senator Chuck Hagel and his staff during the Bush administration and he was certainly not shy about expressing his criticisms. But despite his criticisms, Hagel voted with us most of the time and there was no question he was committed to advancing America’s interests abroad. As for his nomination to be secretary of defense, it is well worth noting that Senator Hagel is a combat veteran who has hands-on experience in the field. The battlefield is not just theory for him.”

The timeline here is important because it helps to provide context. Cooper voiced this support for Hagel after reports were circulating about his 1998 comments to the Omaha World-Herald and before Hagel apologized for those comments. Which means that Cooper was defending Hagel despite Hagel’s comments from 1998.

LCR’s mission, according to its own web page, is “to build a stronger, more inclusive Republican Party” while adhering to what LCR calls the party’s “core values.” And so when a previously anti-gay politician utters words which indicate a shift away from exclusion towards inclusion, one might think that an organization which claims to promote inclusion would want to encourage that. You know, something like this:

Hey, we’re glad you came around. We’re glad you apologized. It’s a really good start, but we’d like to know more. What changed? Why did you change? And that thing you said, about your commitment to our civil rights. This is the first time you’ve said anything like that. Can you tell us more? Which of our civil rights are you committed to? And that thing about LGBT military families: that’s an important issue that’s still unresolved. Thanks for noticing. What issues to you think you can resolve for them? Where do we go from here?

LCR’s Hagel Ad in The New York Times, December 27, 2012. (Click to enlarge.)

There are so many things LCR could have done, and it appeared that based on what Cooper said before Hagel apologized, LCR was in the perfect position to carry out what it claims to be its mission. Bizarrely, Log Cabin Republicans did exactly the opposite. After Hagel issued his apology, Log Cabin Republicans placed an expensive, full-page ad in the December 27 edition of the New York Times quoting from Hagel’s 1998 comments — as though his more recent statement had never been uttered — and tied their opposition to Hagel to Israel and Iran. And as icing on the cake, they called the man who, for the first time in his career recognized “LGBT Americans’ civil rights” by using those very words, “Wrong on Gay Rights.”

Bizarre, I know. But then, this is the same organization who endorsed a presidential candidate who signed on to the National Organization for Marriage’s five-point plan to destroy LGBT Americans’ civil rights. What can I say but “Exclusion wins!”

Oh, and Israel! Iran! Wherever that came from.

LCR’s Hagel Ad in The Washington Post, January 7, 2013. (Click to enlarge.)

LCR doubled down yesterday with another expensive full-page ad in the Washington Post. This time, they made it all about the gays, leaving the Middle East out of it. But of course, in the context of the greater GOP opposition, LCR has already shown their hand with The Times ad. In this ad, they claim to examine Hagel’s anti-gay record — except, of course, they left out his 2006 change of heart on the FMA because that inconvenient fact interrupts their narrative. (If you recall, that would be the very same position on FMA that LCR explicitly cited when they endorsed McCain for president in 2008.) And in a particularly juvenile move, LCR decided to acknowledge Hagel’s brief apology by crossing their arms, stomping their feet and shrieking “Too little, too late“. Seriously. That’s the concluding line they stamped across the bottom of their ad. It’s a fine retort for a first-grader, but not from mature adults who claim that they want to actually accomplish something.

If this is how LCR slams people who make a move towards inclusion while rewarding presidential candidates who really do want to turn back the clock on our civil rights, then they’ve pretty much sent the message to everyone in the GOP that they may as well stay right where they were in 1998.

Unearned Embraces
If LCR represents one cynical extreme with its irrational reaction to Hagel’s statements, then thank goodness we still have the Human Rights Campaign around to remind us about its well-earned reputation for being too cozy with Democratic politics.

HRC’s mission, according to their web page, is “to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.” And so when a previously anti-gay politician utters words which indicate a tentative shift away from discrimination and towards fairness and equality, one might think that an organization which claims to promote those values might want to seize the initiative and try to elicit some kind of a follow-up to Hagel’s three sentence statement. Obviously Hagel’s apology raises far more questions than it answers. If that’s all he has to say on the subject, than I don’t think anyone with a shred of self-respect would accept it as a final word. After all, contrary to Hagel’s assurances LGBT Americans do have plenty of good reasons to question Hagel’s commitment to their civil rights. Those reasons can be found in his own record.

And so, you might think that HRC, given their mission, might want to say something to encourage Hagel to clarify what he meant. Something along the lines of–

Hey, we’re glad you came around. We’re glad you apologized. It’s a really good start, but we’d like to know more. What changed? Why did you change? And that thing you said, about your commitment to our civil rights. This is the first time you’ve said anything like that. Can you tell us more? Which of our civil rights are you committed to? And that thing about LGBT military families: that’s an important issue that’s still unresolved. Thanks for noticing. What issues to you think you can resolve for them? Where do we go from here?

You know, the same kinds of questions that LCR could have raised.

But no. The ink was barely dry on Hagel’s apology when we got this instead:

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.”

Nothing more to talk about here. Forget everything you remembered about him. He’s our pal now, and there’s no need to worry our pretty little heads over him anymore.

True, it’s much better than kicking Hagel to the curb. But it’s a far cry from anything that would remotely resemble clarity, let alone accountability. HRC has declared the subject closed and there’s nothing more to talk about.

There is a silver lining though: at least they didn’t spend a couple hundred grand on that message.

Where Do We Go From Here?
But the conversation isn’t over. It’s barely even started. And so let me close with two statement which, I think, strike the right balance and invites Hagel to expand on his all-too-brief statement. And of all places, the first one comes from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, an organization that is often criticized for diluting their efforts across a wide array of non-LGBT issues. In 2012, the NGLTF even went so far as to claim “synergy” between same-sex marriage and an attempt to add casino gambling in Maryland. But on the Hagel nomination, the NGLTF gets it mostly right:

“We continue to express our concerns about the nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense due to his poor track record on LGBT equality and reproductive rights. Cabinet choices set the tone for an administration and it is critical that those members support fairness, women’s health and the belief in a level playing field for all. Though Chuck Hagel has recently apologized for past anti-gay remarks, we expect him to fully explain his views during the confirmation process and what steps he intends to take as defense secretary to demonstrate his support for LGBT members of the military and their families. We recognize that people do evolve on these issues and we hold out hope that, if confirmed, Hagel will meet the bar set by other cabinet secretaries and the administration when it comes to ensuring fairness for all LGBT military families and for women in the military.”

And the second one comes from Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who said this to MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell:

“I do not know Chuck Hagel…I do want to speak with him, particularly about his comments 14 years ago, to see if his apology is sincere and sufficient. I want to hear how he’s evolved on this issue in the the last 14 years because the significance to the post to which he’s been nominated is the respect for now openly gay members of the military who because of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell can serve openly and we need to see that implemented successfully…”

Both statements strike a good balance, neither damning Hagel as irredeemable nor embracing him as though he has nothing left to answer for. Because the fact remains that he may yet become a good ally, and we’d be foolish to slam the door on that possibility. But we’d be equally foolish to pretend that our legitimate doubts about his commitment to our civil rights either don’t exist or don’t matter.


January 8th, 2013

Jim – one little typo in the “Hagel v. Hormel” paragraph –

“Those expressions ranged from mild to wild, with Hormel staking out the wilder side.” I’m sure you meant ‘Hagel.’

That aside – well said. Hagel does need to answer some questions in order to earn lgbt support (or even quiet acquiescence). If he gives good answers (and given that he reports to a President who has been a major force behind our recent progress on several fronts), we should actively support him. His background as an enlisted soldier who earned awards for his service, and his years of involvement with military and veterans affairs give him the credibility with the officer corps and the enlisted ranks to successfully complete the implementation of DADT (hopefully in a post-DOMA world) while simultaneously restructuring the armed forces and the Pentagon budget as Obama has committed to do.

Jim Burroway

January 8th, 2013

Tristram. Thanks for pointing out the typo. It’s fixed. I’m sure there are more… (Sigh)


January 8th, 2013

Great Post


January 8th, 2013

I hope Hagel would expand on his change of heart on the gay issue during his senate confirmation.

There is the potential that a converted former opponent will be even more tenacious in righting past wrongs than a comfortable ally.


January 8th, 2013

Jim: How dare you stake out a reasonable middle ground! What will partisans fulminate over?

I am distressed over the habit of Democratic presidents to choose Republicans for defense secretary, as if Democrats are incapable of doing the job.

On the other hand, there’s the “only Nixon could go to China” syndrome. If Obama intends to cut the military equipment/procurement/contractor budget dramatically over the next four years and roll back some of the disastrous legal and cost overrun effects of privatization–and I think it’s likely he does–this probably has more chance of success with a Republican as Defense Secretary than a Democrat.

And, yes, standing up to Israel and giving sanctions against Iran a chance to work rather than a rush to war, Hagel is probably a good choice.

And I think Hormel’s eventual take on the apology is about right: The timing is convenient, but the apology and statement of LGBT support are unequivocal. This is not a legalistic “I’m sorry if my words were ill-chosen” apology.

I trust Tammy Baldwin to grill him during the confirmation hearings and to get him on record with support for LGBT soldiers and their families.

Mens sana

January 8th, 2013

Hagel doesn’t have to be an “ally,” as long as he is not an “enemy.” And I doubt that he has been nominated in order to reverse the President’s LBGT policies within the military.

Timothy Kincaid

January 8th, 2013

If there is any “unwarranted attack” here, it’s the multi-column speculation, guesswork and insinuation you’ve employed in your attack on Log Cabin.


January 8th, 2013

Blah, blah, blah. So the LCR are hypocrites because they wouldn’t have opposed Hagel if a Republican had nominated him, and you’re a hypocrite because if a Republican President had nominated him, you wouldn’t have given him the benefit of the doubt you are now giving him. How about some self-awareness?

Neon Genesis

January 8th, 2013

Timothy, why do you have no problems attacking Barney Frank for his partisanship but you criticize attacks on LCR for their partisanship?

Timothy Kincaid

January 9th, 2013


probably because I don’t believe that opposition to Hagel is by definition a partisan response. Though it might not seem evident here, our community is fairly evenly divided on Hagel, and the lines of difference are not based on party or ideology.


January 8th, 2013

Timothy: Given what the Dick Armey FreedomWorks exit story (inluding his blasts and Limbaugh and Beck) and the revelations about the merry-go-round of payments between Dick Morris and SupaPacUSA have revealed that much of the money raised by by right wing PACs goes not to trying to win elections or influence voters but to line the pockets of the right-wing punditocracy, it would be irresponsible NOT to speculate about LCR and who or what is driving their sudden (and costly) about-face on Hagel.

Timothy Kincaid

January 9th, 2013

ChiMaxx, with a due respect, you sound just a tiny bit like the Third Eagle of the Apocalypse and Co-Prophet of the End Times.


January 8th, 2013

Jim, very well said. I probably don’t need any more reasons to dislike LCR or HRC, but I think your analysis cuts to the heart of their opportunism and willingness to play the patsy just so they don’t miss an invite to a cocktail party. I’m still waiting to see where Chad takes HRC–I do think there’s an inkling of hope there. LCR has had many chances to show their spine, and every time they take a major step forward (e.g., working across party lines in NYS for ME), they do something completely expected and crass.

As I mentioned before, I can’t wait to find out about an “anonymous” large check that paid for their ads and hope they find James Hagee’s DNA on it.

Neon Genesis

January 9th, 2013

I have misgivings about Hagel myself, but in the case of LCR, their opposition to Hagel is clearly being motivated by partisanship. Otherwise, why would they endorse a presidential candidate who wanted to rewrite the constitution to ban gay marriage at a federal level yet one month later they turn around and refuse to support Hagel who apologized for his antigay positions? It’s clear they would be singing a different tune if Hagel had been nominated by a Republican. Having said that, I don’t think we should be too forgiving of Hagel just because he had one instance of voting for gay rights any more than we would forgive Paul Ryan just because he voted once for gay rights.


January 9th, 2013

Except, Timothy, I’m not imagining this stuff. It’s there in black and white in the press.

Did you totally miss the news where Dick Armey told MediaMatters that FreedomWorks paid Beck and Limbaugh more to promote FreedomWorks than they raised from those men’s shows: Or the $8 million Armey is peing paid to go away.

Did you totally miss the story about Dick Morris aggressively fundraising for what he referred to as his own PAC, Super PAC for America, which funneled 1.7 million dollars back through NewsMax to Morris for rental of the very same lists he used to promote Super PAC for America in the first place:

I suspect more such stories are to come–of the lion’s share of money sent by small donors to Republican PACS going not to elect Republicans but to line the pockets of the right-wing commentariat and the people who run the Super PACs and to send out even more fundraising letters.

There are really only two choices here:

1. Either they kept their powder dry, hanging on to a couple hundred thousand dollars during an election with a number of very tight racers where additional spending might have made the difference in their preferred candidate winning.

2. Or some interested party or parties funneled and/or promises in excess of the ad cost to make it worth LCR’s while to ignore their director’s support for Hagel just a couple fo weeks earlier and run a full page ad in the NYT declaring Hagel “Wrong on Gay Rights. Wrong on Israel. Wrong on Iran.” It will probably be a long time if ever before we know how much beyond the ad buy cost was shoveled into LCR coffers to get them on board with publicly rejecting a man their head had so recently publicly supported, a man who was far more supportive of LGBT rights than the presidential candidate they had just endorsed in the previous election. But given the text of the NYT ad, it’s pretty self-evident that gay issues were not the overriding concern of LCR’s benefactors in this venture.

Jim Burroway

January 9th, 2013


You’re not a very good predictor. Can you find any instance where, when an explicitly anti-gay politicians made a statement that puts him into an explicitly pro-gay position, I refused to give him the benefit of doubt?

I think I’ve tried very hard to give everyone a fair shake when they’ve made such a shift, regardless of the side of the aisle they come from. Because I think these shifts are important. LCR obviously doesn’t agree. And HRC goes overboard when these shifts happen. (I very much doubt HRC’s unconditional embrace would have occurred under the hypothetical situation you describe.)

Rob in San Diego

January 9th, 2013

Jim I’m surprised at this statement of yours…

“Nothing more to talk about here. Forget everything you remembered about him. He’s our pal now, and there’s no need to worry our pretty little heads over him anymore.

True, it’s much better than kicking Hagel to the curb. But it’s a far cry from anything that would remotely resemble clarity, let alone accountability. HRC has declared the subject closed and there’s nothing more to talk about.”

Well that is the attitude many at Boxturtle took when Ken Mehlman came out of the closet after pushing so many anti-marriage equality amendments in half of the country.

Granted Ken is not a politician, but instead a spokehole for politicians, however he did far more harm to LGBT families than Hagel ever did or said.

Jim Burroway

January 9th, 2013

Rob In San Diego

I can’t speak for “many at Boxturtle”; only for myself. And here is what I wrote when Ken Mehlman came out:

I think this is a good time for me to interject my own thoughts here. I definitely think that Mehlman should have come out earlier, and I fully believe that harsh criticisms of his tacit support for GOP gay-bashing during the 2004 and 2006 campaigns are fully warrented. I further believe that Mehlman has a lot of ground to cover in order to make up for his past sins.

I then went on to note that he had already begun making up for those past sins by chairing a fundraiser for Americans for Equal Rights (AFER), the organization behind the Prop 8 lawsuit. Which was no small thing, but as far as I was concerned was only a downpayment and not restitution in full. I finished with this:

Mehlman has a lot to make up for. The 2004 and 2006 campaigns that he was directly involved in — and in which he colluded or directed terrible vilificaiton directed toward fellow LGBT people — caused considerable damage to to his fellow Americans, and they will rightly demand accountability. In order to truly heal those wounds, that does need to be his next major step.

But as we wait for that to come (and we shouldn’t have to wait too long for it), let me say this: welcome out, Ken Mehlman. And let the rejoicing — and acts of contrition — begin.

I think this is entirely consistent with my approach to Hagel: He was a very bad character, he has now expressed a new opinion contrary to his previous positions, I’m glad he did it, and now I’m looking for more because he has a lot to make up for.

It’s the same approach I’ve taken with everyone I can think of, whether I liked them or not: Hagel, Mehlman, or even Obama, who , while never overtly anti-gay, I still expected him to follow up with actions after saying something positive.

If someone can find a case where I’ve strayed from that approach, please tell me. But I can’t think of one. If you find it, I’ll be very embarrassed — all of us fail from time to time to live up to the standards that we set for ourselves. But let’s be clear about this: I’m not holding HRC or LCR to a standard that I don’t consciously strive to meet myself.

Rob in San Diego

January 9th, 2013

Let’s be clear just exactly why LCR is doing this, it’s actually in their name Log Cabin Republicans. THEY ARE REPUBLICANS! Just as their straight Republican counterparts they will do anything to get in Obama’s way and obstruct. If you think about it it’s really silly and crazy to hear straight Republicans use this as an excuse, considering that all of them have said the same thing. But to have a “gay” Republican branch it gives them meaning.


January 9th, 2013

Hagel’s positions on gay rights are 100% identical to McCain’s and Romney’s and the LCR supported them both. Actually that’s not quite true. Hagel now is for DADT repeal and McCain practically pulled a George McGovern trying to prevent repeal from taking place. And of course Romney supports a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and Hagel presumably does not, at least he never voiced that publicly. There’s no need for “guesswork” or insinuation. It’s plain to anyone willing to be honest that the LCR is against Hagel for partisan reasons. The idea that Cooper could claim that Hagel’s nomination is troubling when defending his gay record just TWO WEEKS prior is laughable. Most political types at least wait a couple years before blatantly contradicting themselves without shame. Cooper is going for some kind of record.

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