Former congressman Barney Frank has changed his mind about whether Chuck Hagel should become the next secretary of Defense.
The out former representative from Massachusetts had issued a blistering critique of Hagel when it emerged that as a freshman senator from Nebraska the Republican attacked James Hormel in 1998 as too "aggressively gay" to become ambassador to Luxembourg.
"Then-Senator Hagel’s aggressively bigoted opposition to President Clinton’s naming the first openly gay Ambassador in U.S. history was not, as Sen. Hagel now claims, an aberration," Frank originally said in a statement, noting Hagel's record of votes, which includes support for the Defense of Marriage Act, "don’t ask, don’t tell," and a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in Nebraska.
But that was then. Today Frank tells the Boston Globe that, "with the attack coming out of the right, I hope he gets confirmed."
Hagel is being attacked by fellow Republicans as too weak on Iran and not friendly enough toward Israel, among other things.
Frank's opinion on the confirmation could suddenly matter. He is publicly lobbying to be named the interim U.S. senator from Massachusetts if Sen. John Kerry wins confirmation as secretary of State.
If Frank gets his wish, he could get to vote on Hagel's nomination. But that depends on the timing. Kerry would have to be confirmed by the Senate as the next secretary of State before it votes on Hagel.
Frank told the Globe that he had set his hopes on Obama opting not to nominate Hagel. But since that didn't happen, "the question now is going to be Afghanistan and scaling back the military. In terms of the policy stuff, if he would be rejected, it would be a setback for those things."
Already with Hagel's formal nomination today, the White House has sought to defend Obama's pick from criticism from LGBT activists, who are not wholly lined up against Hagel. The Human Rights Campaign was quick to attack Hagel's comments about Hormel but then struck a more conciliatory tone when Hagel quickly issued a public apology.
The harshest criticism has come from Log Cabin Republicans, the gay GOP group, which has bought newspaper advertising attacking Hagel.