BUSINESS AS (UN)USUAL

Why Did The Log Cabin Republicans Go After Chuck Hagel, And What Was The Fallout?

hagel-times-adLast week, the Log Cabin Republicans took out a full-page ad in the New York Times, blasting potential Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel for being “wrong on gay rights, wrong on Iran, [and] wrong on Israel.”

At about the same time, the LCR sent out a press release announcing current national director R. Clarke Cooper was stepping down and an interim replacement, Gregory T. Angelo, was taking over this month.

As the New Year’s confetti clears, though, questions are being raised about the group’s motivation for the ad, where the funds to pay for it came from, and whether Cooper’s departure was in any way connected.

In the Guardian, columnist Glenn Greenwald posits:

Full-page ads in the NYT are notoriously expensive, particularly for a small, poorly-funded group like LCR; published rates indicate that such an ad can cost well in excess of $100,000, though some discounts are possible with flexible dates (five years ago, the published rate for a black-and-white full-page political ad was $142,000).

Cooper says the Times ad was paid for by donors, not out of LCR’s existing budget, but won’t ‘fess up about who cut the check: “LCR developed the ad first and then found funding by ‘passing the hat’ to a variety of supporters,” he said in a statement to to Daily Beast columnist Andrew Sullivan.

The theory is that pro-Israel interest groups funded the ad, to attack a political enemy with an unrelated accusation. In addition to complaining that “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people,” in Congress, Hagel hasn’t been shy about criticizing Israeli policy.

But Cooper says LCR is concerned about Sen Hagel’s potential nomination “because of the role he would play in  continuing to oversee the implementation of open service of the military.” Haven’t Mitt Rommney and John McCainbeen worse on LGBT issues—and opposed the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell? And the Log Cabin Republicans went to bat for both of them.

R. Clarke Cooper
R. Clarke Cooper

In the letter to Andrew Sullivan, Cooper admits it’s not just about gay rights:

It is Chuck Hagel’s weak record on preventing nuclear proliferation in Iran, lack of confidence in our ally Israel as well as an aggressive history against the LGBT community that is a negative combination for a Secretary of Defense nominee.

While he may have recently apologized for his anti-gay comments to save his possible nomination, Hagel cannot walk away from his consistent record against economic sanctions to try to change the behavior of the Islamist radical regime in Tehran. To use an US Army colloquial term, he is a “No Go” for the cabinet post.

LCR has a long history of showing support for our ally Israel and questioning those who would be soft on Iran. While it may surprise some to see LCR taking out a major ad in the New York Times, it’s part of a broader communications strategy that LCR and its board have been developing over the last year.”

Okay, here’s another explanation that’s been suggested: As rank-and-file Republicans, the Log Cabinites just want to torpedo anyone President Obama is going to nominate. As one Queerty commenter posited, if Hagel was running for Congress again, “they’d be fine with him.”

But what about Cooper’s sudden departure from the Log Cabin Republicans? He’s held the post for more than two years, so it’s not clear if he was ousted or wanted to explore new opportunities.

Just weeks before the ad came out in the Times, Cooper was praising Hagel to Gay City News:

“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.”

Was Cooper shuffled out for not towing the party line? Did he leave because he was unhappy with the group’s agenda?

Whatever the case, it appears Hagel’s chances of getting a cabinet post have sunk like a stone. Politico’s Mike Allen says Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy are the new leading candidates.

What do you think? Was Hagel a bad choice for Defense all along or were his alleged “sins” overblown for political reasons?