What are the common features of Chuck Hagel’s attacks on the “Jewish lobby” and his attack on James C. Hormel, the openly gay San Francisco philanthropist nominated by Bill Clinton to be ambassador to Luxembourg in 1997? First, both attacks are wrongheaded. The “Jewish lobby” is actually a pro-Israel lobby that includes non-Jews. And it was ridiculous to suppose that, in Hagel’s words, Hormel’s openly gay status would be an “an inhibiting factor” to him “do[ing] an effective job” as ambassador to Luxembourg.
Second both comments show Hagel to be a nasty piece of work, if not an out-and-out bigot. One can believe that American policy tilts too much towards Israel, due in part to lobbying, without denouncing a “Jewish lobby.” And one can believe that aspects of the gay rights agenda go too far (e.g., gay marriage or the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell”) without believing that gays should be barred from serving their country on the grounds that being gay is at odds with (to quote Hagel again) “our lifestyle, our values, our standards.” But like many with narrow minds and poor dispositions, Hagel doesn’t make these sorts of distinctions.
Seth Mandel nails it when he says: “it’s Hagel and his poisonous views that shouldn’t be ‘representing our lifestyle, our values, our standards’ at home and abroad.”
NOTE: Originally, I called this post “Chuck Hagel — Small Mind, Nasty Disposition.” The current title better reflects my view of the former Senator.