President Obama has officially announced his intention to assign former Senator Chuck Hagel to his cabinet as Secretary of Defense. If confirmed, Hagel would be the first enlisted soldier to serve in the post.
In a statement, Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett acknowledged the controversy over Hagel’s inflammatory statements about Ambassador James Hormel’s sexuality:
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.
Of course, Hagel’s possible anti-LGBT bias is only one strike against him, as conservatives question his views on defense cuts and U.S. involvement in Israel. What do you think: Should we accept that Hagel has evolved and get behind the President’s decision—or is this a time to stand our ground?