In a blog post on the White House Web site, senior adviser to the President, Valerie Jarrett, who is known to one of the President’s most trusted confidants, responded to ongoing gay community concerns about Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel’s past record on gay rights issues:
Senator Hagel has been a strong supporter of the President’s approach to national security, and as Secretary of Defense, he will support and execute the President’s vision for our military. That includes continuing the President’s historic support for gay and lesbian service members, and overseeing the continued implementation of the full repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The President is fully committed to ensuring that all of our service members and military families are treated equally. He is confident that, as Secretary of Defense, Senator Hagel will ensure that all who serve the country we love are treated equally — no matter who they love.
Recently, some in the LGBT community have expressed concerns about Senator Hagel’s past comments. In response, Senator Hagel issued a statement in which he apologized for comments that he made in the 1990s, and affirmed both his commitment to LGBT civil rights as well as his support for open service and the families of gay and lesbian service members.
One of the great successes of the LGBT civil rights movement is that it provides the space and opportunity for people to change their hearts and minds, to right past wrongs, and, over time, to evolve. The President believes Senator Hagel’s statement of apology, and his commitment to ensuring that all service members and their families are treated equally. The President would not have chosen him unless he had every confidence that, working together, they will continue to ensure that our military and DoD civilian workforce are as welcoming, inclusive, and respectful as possible.
What’s most interesting about this isn’t the substance. The White House clearly is concerned about the gay backlash against Hagel, as evidenced by the fact that they used a close Obama ally to put out the message that “they’ve heard us.” It’s an ongoing sign of our community’s influence that the White House feels the need to keep explaining, and that’s good. There was a time when no one cared what the gay community thought about a Defense nominee.
It’s also interesting that nearly half of Jarrett’s post in defense of Hagel is about gay issues.
As for the substance, I’m not entirely convinced yet, but we need to hear from Hagel at the upcoming nomination hearings. And I suspect we will. Then we can decide if our concerns have been met.
I will say that I have growing concerns, not about Hagel, but about the gay Republican group Log Cabin Republicans, and whether we are witnessing another gay organization in a payola, pay-for-play, -type scandal that we previously had with GLAAD (and AT&T) and the NGLTF (and gambling interests), where both gay groups weighed in on an issue that didn’t seem to have a terribly gay angle, only to later found out that a not-gay-at-all outside interest was pulling their strings, and undermining our own community and its ongoing credibility.
In this case, Log Cabin ran a full-page ad attacking Hagel in the NYT, and made the odd choice of not just attacking Hagel for his past anti-gay comments against gay ambassador Jim Hormel, but also including concerns about Hagel’s willingness to take on Iran and defend Israel – two decidedly un-gay issue. Log Cabin has refused to say who paid for the expensive ad, especially in light of the ad’s focus on two issues that have nothing to do with gay rights.
Again today Log Cabin has yet another full-page ad attacking Hagel, this time in the Washington Post. This ad, at least, sticks to gay rights issues, but it uses the same photo the previous ad did, and it’s certainly not a stretch to ask whether the same anonymous funder(s), who have interests beyond gay rights issue, paid for this ad as well.
What makes Log Cabin’s new-found interest in anti-gay Republicans so curious is Log Cabin’s long-standing disinterest in standing up to anti-gay Republicans. Log Cabin had no problem defending John Ashcroft, when he was attacked for his anti-gay comments about Hormel. And Log Cabin had no problem getting in bed with Mitt Romney, when the GOP presidential candidate renounced pretty much every pro-gay position he had previously ever held.
Log Cabin’s tag line on the ad is “Chuck Hagel’s apology: Too little, too late.” One could use the same tag line about Log Cabin’s sudden interest in standing up to anti-gay Republicans.
So while one is tempted to simply welcome Log Cabin to the civil rights party and be done with it, beyond their good work on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” lawsuits, the organization hasn’t seemed terribly pre-occupied with taking on anti-gay Republicans in the past, so it’s curious that they’ve suddenly found Jesus (or Harvey) now that the neo-cons have called for a jihad about Chuck Hagel.