President Barack Obama on Monday
nominated Chuck Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska and
Vietnam veteran, to succeed Leon Panetta as secretary of defense.
“Chuck Hagel's leadership of our
military would be historic,” Obama said in announcing his decision.
“He'd be the first person of enlisted rank to serve as secretary
of defense, one of the few secretaries who have been wounded in war,
and the first Vietnam veteran to lead the department.”
Citing Hagel's poor record on gay
rights in the Senate and comments he made in 1998 toward James
Hormel, the openly gay former U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg, gay
rights groups have largely opposed Hagel's nomination.
Reaction to Monday's official
announcement was decisively mixed.
Former Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank,
who questioned Hagel's recent apology to Hormel, said he was prepared
to back Hagel.
“As much as I regret what Hagel said,
and resent what he said, the question now is going to be Afghanistan
and scaling back the military,” he told the Boston Globe.
“In terms of the policy stuff, if he would be rejected [by the
Senate], it would be a setback for those things.”
Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin, the
Senate's only openly gay member, questioned the sincerity of Hagel's
“I do want to speak with him,
particularly about his comments 14 years ago, to see if his apology
is sincere and sufficient,” Baldwin said on MSNBC's Andrea
Mitchell Reports. “I want to hear how he's evolved on this
issue in the last 14 years.”
Gay GOP group Log Cabin Republicans
did not retreat from its opposition to Hagel, The group has been
running expensive full-page ads in The New York Times and The
Washington Post opposing Hagel as the nominee.
Gregory Angelo, the group's interim
executive director, called Hagel's apology “weak” during an
appearance on MSNBC. He also cited Hagel's support for the Defense
of Marriage Act (DOMA) and “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” while in the
Allyson Robinson, executive director of
OutServe-SLDN, which represents LGBT troops, also cited concerns over
DOMA but left open whether the group would support Hagel.
“Our message to the next Secretary of
Defense would be the same, no matter who was nominated and
confirmed,” she said in an email to supporters. “A commitment to
support LGBT service members and their families must be a commitment
to action. It's past time to extend all benefits available to
married same-sex military couples and families while the so-called
Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is still on the books. It's past time
to put in place military equal opportunity and nondiscrimination
protections so that all qualified Americans who wish to serve this
nation in uniform may do so without fear of harassment or
discrimination. We look forward in the weeks ahead to discussing
these and other issues important to LGBT service members and their
families with Senator Hagel and his designees, and to working with
him should he be confirmed to create equitable conditions for all
those who serve our nation so bravely in uniform.”