Chuck Hagel, Gay Rights, and Liberalism’s Incoherence

Welcome to Chuck Hagel week. My contribution to the discussion of this unusually offensive nominee for a major cabinet position has just appeared on Pajamas Media. If you hurry, it will be the  lead article at the top of the page; if you tarry, go directly to the article: Chuck Hagel, Gay Rights, and Liberalism’s Incoherence. (Hurrying and tarrying are the only two options; I’m not entertaining the notion that you won’t go at all.)

By now most readers will know that Hagel made a big mistake back in 1997 when he opposed President Clinton’s choice of Democratic moneyman (and son of Spam) James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg by calling him too “openly, aggressively gay” to serve as a representative of the United States. Hagel has of course now issued the obligatory and predictable Washington apology, calling his remarks “insensitive” (an apology I compare to Joe Lieberman’s 2000 apology to Maxine Waters and the Congressional Black Caucus for his intemperate past support for colorblind racial equality).

What interests me here, however, and the subject of my PJM piece (which contains links to all statements etc. mentioned here), is not Hagel himself or his views of gays; it is the growing incoherence of liberal views of equality brought to the surface by the current controversy over his remarks. Hormel himself, after initially rejecting Hagel’s apology as no more than a typical Washington job-seeking stunt, changed his tune and joined a chorus of gay activists using those remarks to force Hagel into acceptance of the current gay agenda, just as the Black Caucus made Lieberman promise eternal fealty to affirmative action.

Hagel’s apology was offered to “any LGBT Americans who may question my commitment to their civil rights.” In a subsequent statement Hormel retracted his earlier refusal to accept the apology and stated that if Hagel’s promise to supper “their civil rights” really is ”a commitment to treat LGBT service members and their families like everybody else, I would support his nomination.”

Like everybody else? Ironically, when Hormel and the gay activists insist that civil rights for gays requires that they be treated just “like everybody else,” they are implicitly — maybe even explicitly — demanding to be treated “without regard” to sex or sexual preference — ironically, because it was precisely his past advocacy of the “without regard” principle that got Lieberman into trouble and that he had to recant. Thus if you take what liberals say seriously (well, some do), they believe that a proper understanding of civil rights requires gays to be treated without regard to their sexual preference but that blacks and Hispanics must be treated with regard to their race and ethnicity. Indeed, failure to do so, insisting that they be treated just “like everybody else,” deprives them of their civil rights.

I’ve written about this very incoherence too many times to cite, and as usual the very best examples of it can be found in the Ivy League. Recall, for example, the effort of Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and others to bar military recruiters from campus because of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, claiming allowing discriminatory recruiters on campus violated their own anti-discrimination policies (an effort that was slapped down 8-0 by the Supreme Court in Rumsfeld v. FAIR). In one of my many posts about that controversy I quoted the anti-discrimination policy of the Yale Law School:

 Yale Law School is committed to a policy against discrimination based upon age, color, handicap or disability, ethnic or national origin, race, religion, religious creed, gender (including discrimination taking the form of sexual harassment), marital, parental or veteran status, sexual orientation, or the prejudice of clients. All employers using the school’s placement services are required to abide by this policy.

“Whatever can be said in defense of racial preferences,” I noted, “one thing that cannot be said is that employers who give preferences based on race treat all their applicants without regard to race.” If Yale were really bound by its stated policy, I added, shouldn’t it “bar recruiters from all employers — such as, for example, virtually all other law schools —who award racial preferences?”

The Dean of the Yale Law School during its unsuccessful attempt to bar military recruiters from the campus was Harold Hongju Koh, subsequently appointed by President Obama to be Legal Adviser to the State Department, who issued a statement after the Supreme Court rejected the Ivies’ effort to bar military recruiters proclaiming that

We look forward to the day when the government gives all of our students — without regard to their sexual orientation — an equal opportunity to serve our country by working in our Nation’s armed forces.

In Does “Equal Opportunity” Require The “Without Regard” Principle? Let’s Ask Former Yale Law Dean Harold Hongju Koh, while Koh’s nomination as Legal Advisor was pending, I wrote that perhaps

it is not too late for some Senator to ask, as I did: Does Yale Favor Equal Opportunity Only For Gays? The question seems highly relevant, since Dean Koh stated clearly that he believes people must be treated “without regard to their sexual orientation” in order to have “equal opportunity,” but Yale’s practice of racial preference, and defense of it everywhere, reveals that he clearly does not believe that distributing official benefits or burdens on the basis of race or ethnicity denies “equal opportunity” to those receiving the burdens.

From the highest offices of the Obama administration to all the outposts of contemporary liberalism — that would be virtually all of the leaders and opinion creators in higher education, mainstream media editorial offices, elected Democratic officials and their staffs, and liberal think tanks and activist organizations — the “without regard” principle is held up as a noble standard whenever doing so would be useful to the liberal agenda … and relegated to the back of the bus or put back in the closet storing discarded artifacts of liberalism’s past whenever adherence to it would be inconvenient to one liberal policy or another.

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  1. CaptDMO January 7, 2013 at 2:23 am | | Reply

    Which is why I continue to demand “just…a little bit more” access to my right of “sensable” discrimination.

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