Obama Chooses Extreme Republican for Secretary of Defense

            President Obama’s first Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, was also the Secretary of Defense under George W. Bush.  When Obama came into office he selected a cabinet filled with appointments who could have been nominated by virtually any Republican President.  However, Obama could not even bring himself to select a Democrat to oversee the Department of Defense.  Instead, he simply retained Bush’s Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates.   Now, President Obama appears ready to once again select a Republican to head the Department of Defense.  All reports indicate that Obama will nominate Chuck Hagel, the former conservative Republican Senator from Nebraska.  With this selection Obama will continue to foster the idea that Democrats are not as qualified as Republicans on matters of National Security.

            There are numerous reasons to oppose the nomination of Chuck Hagel that go beyond the simple fact that he is a former Republican Senator.  Chuck Hagel may not be as unhinged as an Allen West, or Jim Demint, but he is certainly no moderate.  Hagel’s positions on most matters are completely out of step with the majority of Americans.  A review of his voting record reveals an exceedingly conservative Republican who represents the worst positions of the Republican Party platform.  Supporters of the President will try to paint Hagel as a moderate Republican who often voted against his own party.  A review of his actual voting record will disprove the idea that Hagel is anything but a typical extreme conservative. 

            On the issue of abortion, Hagel has voted lockstep with the most conservative elements of the Republican Party.  In 2008, he voted to define an unborn child as being eligible for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.  This was an attempt by Republicans to ban abortion by passing ‘backdoor’ personhood legislation.  In 2007, he voted to bar the Department of Health and Human Services from providing grants to organizations that perform abortions.  This bill was an attempt to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood.  He even voted to ban abortions from being performed on Military Bases.  So, the man nominated to head the Department of Defense does not believe that female service members should be allowed to have an abortion performed at a military hospital.  That should make all female service members question Hagel’s ability to guarantee them equal treatment if he becomes the Secretary of Defense. 

            Hagel has a poor record of supporting basic individual liberty.  In 2006, he voted to recommend a Constitutional ban on desecrating the U.S. flag.  Yes, flag desecration is such a serious problem in America that Hagel supported amending the Constitution to stave off the collapse of America.  While he supports protecting the flag, he does not support protecting citizens with sexual orientations that he does not like.  In the year 2000, he voted to prevent expanding the definition of hate crimes to include sexual orientation.  Yes, he wants to amend the Constitution to protect the flag, however, in 2001, he believed there were too many restrictions preventing the government from listening in on individual’s cell phone conversations, so he voted to remove those restrictions.  Hagel believed that the flag needed protecting, people of different sexual orientations did not need protecting, and that it was simply too difficult for the U.S. government to listen in on the cell phone conversations of its citizens. 

            Hagel’s voting record on energy matters is more nuanced than that of most conservatives.  Many like to tie in the issues of energy and security as being very closely related. I’m not sure that I agree with that analysis, however, a quick review of Hagel’s voting record on energy reveals a man who is a staunch supporter of the fossil fuel industry.  As recently as 2008 he voted against tax incentives for energy conservation.  Hagel voted against a ban on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).  In 2002, he voted for drilling in the ANWR based on National Security matters.  His voting record seems to show that virtually any vote on any matter can be justified by using the blanket excuse of “National Security” concerns.  In 2007, Hagel voted to not allow federal project planning to factor in global warming.  This position directly contradicts the Pentagon’s own analysis that states that Climate Change does indeed pose a threat to National Security.  Hagel is being nominated to head the Department of Defense, yet his stance on climate change appears to be out of step with the very agency he will be leading.

            Obviously, Chuck Hagel was an extremely conservative Senator who rarely went against his party.  I’m not going to review every vote he ever cast, but there are a few more issues that I consider noteworthy.  Now, the Secretary of Defense will have to little to contribute to the gun control debate, however, Hagel consistently received an A rating from the National Rifle Association.  In 1999, he voted to loosen requirements on license and background checks for gun shows.  On the issue of voting rights, Hagel voted to require that anyone voting present photo identification.  Hagel voted against allowing Medicare to negotiate bulk drug purchases.  In a vote that I find particularly indefensible, in 2006, he voted to limit medical liability lawsuits to no more than $250,000.  He voted against allowing habeas corpus for Guantanamo detainees.   

            Hagel’s record shows him to be an extreme conservative republican.  I have not cherry picked his voting record.  I have provided numerous examples of Hagel, again and again consistently voting in support of extreme conservative positions.  Yes, he has occasionally gone against the Republican Party.  However, the majority of his time as a Senator, Hagel was a reliable vote on even the most extreme Republican issues.  Why would President Obama appoint someone who does not share the same values as the modern Democratic Party?  I do not have a dream candidate for the position of Secretary of Defense.  It’s not my job to nominate someone to this position so I do not have the names of 5 or 6 candidates on the tip of my tongue.  By nominating Hagel, Obama has not only reinforced the idiotic idea that only Republicans can be trusted on matters of National Security, he has shown his unwillingness to support his own party, or the voters who elected him.





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Thank you for the excellent summary

geomoo's picture

This is very useful to have collected in one place.  I appreciate the effort it took to bring this.  Some of us will accept this information without surprise, seeing it for what it is.  I cannot imagine what others will come up with to defend this choice, but I am certain there will be vocal defense of the decision along with the usual forms of derision and attempted marginalization of those who attempt to shed light on the kind of information reported here, most of which can be summed up as, "There is something wrong with the messenger."

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so many things wrong with selecting Hagel

sartoris's picture

Thanks for reading, Geomoo.  If possible, can you please post this to the Facebook pages. 

Perhaps it is not correct to say that Obama's selection of Hagel is an endorsement of Hagel's extreme voting record.  Perhaps that is not a logical conclusion to make.  I'll not make that conclusion.  However, it is fair to say that Obama views nothing in Hagel's past to disqualify him from being the Secretary of Defense.  Hagel is a man who is so anti abortion that he voted to ban the procedure from being performed in military hospitals.  Hagel has a long history of voting against LGBT rights. 

Well, I won't spell out everything that I already outlined above.  I suppose that with Geithner on his way out Obama can nominate Grover Norquist or Donald Trump to be the next Secretary of Treasury.  Wouldn't that just be the ultimate act of fee fee bipartianship????   

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Grover Norquist

sartoris's picture

No, I don't expect Obama to nominate Norquist.  However, considering the backflips that his ardent supporters are doing over the Hagel nomination, I would be very interested in seeing the justifications that would be tossed around to support a Norquist nomination. 

I can see a Jamie Dimon nomination.

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Excellent article. I learned a lot from it.

Glinda's picture

I feel sorry for the Democratic Party.  There is not one qualified Democrat to be Secretary of Defense.  Oh, wait.  I misspoke.  Yes, there is/are.  Plenty of them.

For a politician with a D after their name, Obama's appointments with few exceptions are really horrible.

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I really hated this nomination at first.

type1error's picture

It does reinforce the whole, "Democrats can't be trusted to run the Pentagon" stereotype. My biggest concerns have been SecDef's ability to create and enforce so much policy within the military. Will he protect women and sexual minorities? Will he make preventing and investigating sexual assault a priority? I have friends who've worked with military victims of sexual assault and they have very distressing things to stay about the military culture.

At the same time, Glenn Greenwald wrote a great post about Chuck Hagel that has affected my thinking:

So yes: like virtually every prominent politician in both parties, Chuck Hagel had primitive and ugly views on gay issues back in 1998. But shouldn't the question be: does he still hold these views or, like huge numbers of Americans, have his viewed evolved since then? Hagel has apologized for what he said, an apology which Hormel accepted, graciously noting: "I can't remember a time when a potential presidential nominee apologized for anything . . . .Since 1998, fourteen years have passed, and public attitudes have shifted--perhaps Senator Hagel has progressed with the times, too." Moreover, Hagel last week also vowed that he is "fully supportive of 'open service' and committed to LGBT military families."

The openly gay foreign policy insider, Steve Clemons, has known Hagel for years, and two weeks ago wrote in the Atlantic that "Chuck Hagel is pro-gay, pro-LGBT, pro-ending 'don't ask, don't tell.'" Beyond his policy views, Clemons recounted personal incident after personal incident that completely negates the accusation that Hagel now harbors bigotry toward gay people.

Given how progressives assess other politicians, why should Hagel not be forgiven or at least be given the benefit of the doubt? Look at what Democrats are willing to forgive and forget. They swoon for Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, who in 2002 voted to authorize George Bush's attack on Iraq, surely a far worse offense than Hagel's ugly comments about Hormel. They overlook Biden's obnoxious 2006 comments about Indian-Americans and Obama's patronizing and sexist use of "sweetie" to dismiss a female reporter in 2008. They adore the top Democrat in the Senate, Harry Reid, who opposes a woman's right to choose. They even forgave long-time Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd for his past membership in the Ku Klux Klan. Where does Hagel's 1998 comment rank with those bad acts?

At this point, I'm a "meh" on Chuck Hagel, as I am with most things Obama. Don't stand in the way, but don't help out. I don't know that it will make much of a difference who runs the Pentagon. And if we're going to stand up to the president, let's do it on something that will actually make a difference.

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Obama is the definition of a moderate Republican

sartoris's picture

Thanks for reading.

Obama's selection of Hagel is just pathetic.  There are hard cuts headed towards the American people.  The safety net is about to be sliced and diced to put more money in the hands of the 1%.

Off topic but former Democratic governor Ed Rendell is all over the media yelling about how we have to raise the age of Medicare eligibility.  Ask yourself, is Obama to the left or to the right of Ed Rendell?


Forget about what the nomination of Hagel says to the progressive left wing of the Democratic Party.  Forget about what it says to the base that turned out to elect Obama.  His inability to nominate a Democrat to head the DOD speaks volumes.   By nominating Hagel, Obama just said a loud FU to the entire Democratic Party. 


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His nominations of Hagel and Brennan are indeed extraordinary

sartoris's picture

Both of these men have fought to undermine the application of the rule of law in such unimportant areas as indefinite detention, torture and warrantless wiretapping.  I suppose that supporting Habeus Corpus now qualifies as 'wanting my pony'.  Being opposed to torture must make me an unrealistic member of the unserious class. 

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