By all accounts, President Barack Obama is preparing to nominate Chuck Hagel replace Leon Panetta as his Secretary of defence in a 1:05 p.m. press conference today.
Obama’s move to select Hagel, the former Republican Senator from Nebraska, has angered some on both the left and right because of some of Hagel’s past positions on Israel and Iran and inflammatory comments made nearly 15 years ago about a U.S. ambassador nominee he described as “openly, aggressively gay.”
Some Republican Senators — including Lindsey Graham, John Cornyn, and Ted Cruz — have already indicated they plan to fight the nomination.
From both sides, here are four things that could derail Hagel’s confirmation in the Senate.
Hagel’s position on Israel
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the main force of the pro-Israel lobby in the Washington, has yet to take a firm stand on Hagel’s nomination. But an unnamed Republican Senate aide called Hagel anti-Semitic in an interview with The Weekly Standard.
The crux of the allegations stems from his time as Senator and a quote from an interview in 2006, when Hagel said that the “Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here.”
Bret Stevens at the Wall Street Journal wrote an editorial claiming that Hagel had a “Jewish Problem.” He highlighted most of the case against Hagel when it comes to Israel, emphasising the “Jewish lobby” quip.
Hagel’s position on Iran
The Washington Post editorial board slammed the pick because of Hagel’s left-of-centre positions on Iran. Hagel has voted against some U.S. sanctions on Iran, arguing instead at times for direct negotiations.
Here’s the WaPo’s take on Hagel:
Mr. Hagel was similarly isolated in his views about Iran during his time in the Senate. He repeatedly voted against sanctions, opposing even those aimed at the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which at the time was orchestrating devastating bomb attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq. Mr. Hagel argued that direct negotiations, rather than sanctions, were the best means to alter Iran’s behaviour.
The Obama administration has indicated that their preferred policy is to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons by any means, but Hagel has come out in the past expressed scepticism about the use of force.
Hagel’s position on defence cuts
The presumptive nominee has come out historically in favour of cutting the size and budget of the Department of defence, angering hawks.
During a September 2011 interview with the Financial Times, Hagel said that “The defence Department, I think in many ways, has been bloated, so I think the Pentagon needs to be pared down.”
The Washington Post also emphasised this position in its editorial, suggesting that he had isolated views on the defence cuts scheduled to take effect as a result of the sequester.
Hagel’s 1997 anti-gay remark
Nearly 15 years ago, Hagel made an anti-gay remark about a James C. Hormel, a nominee for the Luxembourg ambassadorship, in an interview with The Omaha World-Herald.
“They are representing America. 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 said in opposing Hormel’s nomination.
This prompted the Log Cabin Republicans — a group of LGBT GOP members — to take out a full page ad in the Washington Post criticising Hagel’s selection as Secretary of defence. He recently apologized for the remark.
It also elicited a statement from LGBT rights organisation, GetEQUAL, which urged Obama to reconsider Hagel’s nomination on Friday.
“Hagel’s recent apology for his insulting comments about the nomination of James Hormel as U.S. Ambassador to Luxemborg were hollow, politically expedient, and nakedly gratuitous,” the organisation said in the statement.
“The defence Department has made important strides toward creating an inclusive Armed Forces, but has miles left to go — nominating Hagel to lead the defence Department would be a staggering step backward for the LGBT community and an upheaval of President Obama’s past support for the LGBT community.”
Hagel also supported the defence of Marriage Act and in 1999 opposed repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
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