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.