Image from Politico
Although I see it's possible to criticise President Barack Obama's defense [sic] secretary appointment from just about any angles, particularly form those who have dished praise on him before, there is one sticking point that I just can't get past. Hagel was a supporter of Don't Ask Don't Tell.
Although Don't Ask-Don't Tell (pdf) (DADT) was a liberal piece of legislation in 1993, when it was signed by President Bill Clinton, it was a piss-poor effort to deal with the "problem" of gays in the military. Prior to DADT, gays were hoofed out of the USA's gigantic army because homophobia was a pretty acceptable idea then. DADT allowed gays and lesbians to serve in the military as long as they didn't let anyone know they were gay, and no on would be asking of they were.
(Incidentally, this garbage was thankfully repealed by President Barack Obama and Congress in 2011).
So think about it: you were allowed to be in the army as long as you fell within the norms of how straight people act. As long as you PRETENDED not to be gay it was ok for you to put your life on the line in whatever destination the president and/or his private enterprises decided. Which is a nice way of saying that as long as gays played along with homophobic discrimination, they were allowed to be, you know, patriots.
This is one of the sections of DADT: The armed forces must maintain personnel policies that exclude persons whose presence in the armed forces would create an unacceptable risk to the armed forces’ high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.
And that's immediately followed by (my emphasis): The presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.
The theory behind this is completely made up to sate people in the army who don't like gays. There is no way that the army works differently with homosexuals in it; the real problem with intra-army relations is homophobia.
And Chuck Hagel supported DADT, for quite some time.
I actually think Hagel will do a good job at the Pentagon. His work experience and talent make him a good fit, particularly trimming the fat of what must be the world's most expensive government institution. There is also arguable evidence Hagel has come around on many of his anti-gay issues (he also criticised the appointment of a US ambassador to Luxembourg by saying "Ambassadorial posts are sensitive. They are representing America. They are representing our lifestyles, our values, our standards. And I think it is an inhibiting factor to be — openly aggressively gay like Mr. Hormel — to do a better job," and rallied against a court who said Nebraska (his state) banning gay marriage is unconstitutional.) In fact, this is a really worthwhile read by Steve Clemons in The Atlantic: The Chuck Hagel I Know: A Staunch Defender of Gay Rights.
But Jesus Christ, it is hard getting past DADT.