By AATTP Guest Contributor Rob Ellsworth
Well, it’s Monday and I’m in the mood to poke a political hornets’ nest. Here goes…
Apparently some Republicans and Democrats are suspicious of Chuck Hagel’s past statements on Cuba, Israel and gay rights. On Cuba, Hagel said our current policy is “outdated and goofy.” He’s right. He called Castro a “toothless old dinosaur.” He’s right. He advocated opening trade agreements with Cuba to combat state controls in their economy and give the people a future shot at self-rule. He’s right.
On Israel he said he “supports Israel as our closest ally in the Middle East, but that doesn’t mean we should support every policy they propose.” He’s right – I’d put Netanyahu (who doesn’t speak for all of Israel) in the same camp as Paul Wolfowitz… a bit nutty, but clearly nowhere near eligible for a First Class upgrade on the same crazy train as Ahmadinejad (*gross understatement of the year).
As for Hagel’s former positions against gay rights: yes, he was wrong in 1998 (most middle-aged men from Nebraska were and still are), but he’s since apologized and said his views on equality issues have “evolved.” Good for him. Most of America is evolving, too. The whole point of a social justice movement is to gain allies who used to be on the wrong side of history. Opponents of gay rights will look about as dense and cretinous in ten years as those who opposed women serving in the military, or interracial marriage. And, sidebar: I’m still trying to understand how gay marriage undermines “traditional marriage?” I mean, you gotta be kidding me!
I’m relatively confident that money, adultery and an inability for more than half of couples to keep their vows when times get tough are a bigger threat to marriage than straight people suddenly “turning gay.” Furthermore, maybe you haven’t noticed, but being gay didn’t even make God’s top ten list of things not to do. In fact, it fell somewhere beneath talking back to your parents and saying the Lord’s name in vain. So let’s dial it back a notch and focus on our own business.
Back to Cuban and Israeli politics in America: they’ve both been overwhelmingly driven by the best traditional drivers of public policy – fundraising and swing state votes – for decades. I get it. Makes sense. Even this Facebook post would be unthinkable for someone in D.C. politics to write just four years ago. But the landscape is changing. Logic is emerging. I think Hagel is on the right side of these issues.
Occasionally questioning Israel’s leaders and some of their policies doesn’t mean you don’t support them or that you’re “weak on Iran.” Wanting to trade with Cuba and let Americans travel there doesn’t mean you support communism: (A) that’s a 3rd grade argument and (B) I’m pretty sure “open markets” weren’t featured in Marx’s Communist Manifesto. (They were actually in Smith’s Wealth of Nations… FYI).
Of course Castro is horrible and a nightmare for his people. But is he a military threat to America? (The 1960s called, they want their world stage back.) By isolating Castro, we’ve done more to hurt his people and their chances for self rule and a market economy, not to mention how we’ve inhibited growth in U.S. exports.
O.K., you’re right. Our policy of waiting 60 years for one jackass to die while forcing me to buy cigars in foreign airports is textbook public policy – textbook. Kudos, freedom fighters!
When John McCain says he has “legitimate questions” for Hagel, is he finally admitting that his prior questions and statements are non sequiturs at best, and malicious partisan revenge at worst? I always love hearing the guy who placed Sarah Palin a heartbeat from the Presidency criticize anyone else’s hiring decisions. Especially when President Obama nominated Hagel, a former Republican colleague who happens to be a war hero, a successful entrepreneur, and pretty much spot on in the common sense department.
Simply put, Chuck Hagel is the right man to run the Defense Department. He’ll cut wasteful spending without jeopardizing our security, he’ll fight terrorism without creating new generations of terrorists, he’ll send our troops into battle prepared and as a last resort (a man still carrying shrapnel from Vietnam has a bit more credibility than most of his critics…and supporters), and he’ll remember our troops when they come home and need work and medical treatment.
We owe it to the bravest men and women among us to put Mr. Hagel in charge.