Socarides Criticizes Hagel? Really?

Socarides Criticizes Hagel? Really? January 12, 2013

I don’t have any big stake in whether former Sen. Chuck Hagel gets to be the next secretary of defense or not. I think presidents should be allowed to pick their cabinet members barring some overwhelming argument to the contrary (and Congress generally agrees, having not rejected a cabinet nominee in more than two decades). But Andrew Sullivan is right to point out the hypocrisy of Richard Socarides criticizing Hagel’s nomination:

Every now and again, you get whiplash. Here is Bill Clinton’s former chief liaison with the gay community demanding that Chuck Hagel account more fully for his past statements and actions on gay people. Let me repeat: Bill Clinton‘s “principal adviser to Clinton on gay and lesbian civil rights issues” from 1993 to 1999. Think about that for a minute.

Socarides was paid to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in public and certainly didn’t quit over its passage, as any gay person with true commitment to gay equality would have…

Recall: he was paid to spin the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, even as it doubled the discharges of gay servicemembers in the military under Clinton’s term. He was paid by an administration that made every effort to kill the marriage movement (believe me, I was there and saw it up-close), a movement in which Socarides was AWOL until the political tide safely turned. With Socarides as chief adviser, Bill Clinton also signed the law that made me and countless other non-Americans with HIV forbidden to enter the US and live under a brutal legal surveillance system which Clinton did nothing to change. Clinton even broke a clear campaign promise not to codify and sign the measure into law. How does a gay person work for someone who signs such a bill, stigmatizing countless people with HIV and putting the US on the same level as Saudi Arabia? And when will Socarides apologize to me and countless others for being there and not stopping it and not resigning?

In fact, I recall no moment in his career in which Socarides apologized for selling out the gay community in every single possible way in order to stay comfortably ensconced in the Clinton White House.

As Sullivan implies, those in glass houses…

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  • slc1

    Maybe we ought to wait and see what Hagel’s current position on LGBT issues, particularly same sex marriage, is. A number of folks, (e.g. Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Dick Cheney, etc.) have changed their positions in the last 15 years.

  • pacal

    Considering who Richard Socarides father was I would cut him some slack, although frankly it would be very little slack.

  • I am sympathetic to the argument that “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was the most that could be salvaged after Clinton announced plans to end anti-gay discrimination in the military and sparked a congressional backlash. With Sen. Sam Nunn and other bigots leading the charge, Congress was poised to enshrine the total gay ban policy in the military appropriations bill or other legislative vehicle. The weak DADT compromise purported to let gays serve in the armed forces as long as they kept quiet about it, in return for which the witch hunts would stop. Not good, but better than the existing outright ban. Or would have been. DADT was a failure in implementation because gay people continued to be hounded out of service, but it was a corner that Clinton got backed into. (He should have just issued the gays-are-okay executive order without giving the bigots in Congress time to organize, but he waited too long.)

    On the other hand, Clinton’s signing of DOMA was an unmitigated sell-out. Defending it, ditto.

  • jamessweet

    I was going to make a similar comment to Zeno. As devastating as the legacy of DADT is, at the time it was enacted it was arguably the least bad politically feasible alternative. Even if one argues that in retrospect, it would have been better to stick to principles and let the chips fall where they may, I still don’t think it’s fair to characterize the DADT compromise as an attack on gay rights.

    However, like Zeno, I think the other criticisms here are well-deserved. DOMA was not a necessary compromise.