In your face. President Obama will nominate former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense later today, and even before the nomination was official, it stirred controversy. On CNN’s State of the Union, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called Hagel an “in your face” choice: “Chuck Hagel, if confirmed to be the secretary of defense, would be the most antagonistic secretary of defense toward the state of Israel in our nation’s history.” President Obama suggested he be given credit for the fact that Hagel is a Republican as a sign of bipartisanship. But Hagel has been an uneasy fit in the Republican Party for years, and since leaving the Senate in 2009 has aligned himself with Democrats. It is telling that as a senator, Hagel had a tradition of wearing costumes to work on Halloween, usually masquerading as other political figures. He has dressed as John McCain and Colin Powell, among others. But it’s going to take more than a costume for Hagel to convince Republicans he is reasonable and bipartisan. President George W. Bush’s former press secretary Ari Fleischer tweeted today, “Hagel fits POTUS definition of bipartisanship: stick two fingers in the eye of your opponent, not just one.”
French mess. About 20 percent of students in France go to Catholic schools, so it was big news when French Education Minister Vincent Peillon said the country’s schools—including Catholic ones—should stay neutral on the country’s debate on same-sex “marriage.” According to Reuters, “Peillon’s supporters and critics dominated the headlines and airwaves on Sunday.” Reuters also reported that this weekend a Catholic Church-backed demonstration in favor of traditional marriage could attract as many as half-a-million people. But the church has its work cut out for it. Polls say as many as 60 percent of the French back same-sex “marriage.”
Saved by the bell. Illinois lawmakers ran out of time in their efforts to redefine marriage during its last session, despite having a same-sex “marriage” bill approved by a Senate committee. But it was only a temporary reprieve. The new session of the Illinois General Assembly begins on Wednesday, and it’s expected to take up the bill again. According to CitizenLink, “If passed into law, Illinois would be the first Midwest state—and the 10th state along with the District of Columbia—to pass same-sex marriage via legislation. Iowa’s Supreme Court approved same-sex marriage in 2009.”
Re-assessing Nixon. This Wednesday, Jan. 9, marks the 100th birthday of Richard Nixon, who died in 1994. There is, of course, much not to like about former President Nixon. The Watergate scandal defined an era and fundamentally changed many elements of American life. Nixon was an unlovable figure: aloof, shy, paranoid. But even before his death, and certainly since, his legacy has undergone a rehabilitation. He wrote more than 10 books in retirement, many of them critical and commercial successes. Following a successful trip to the Soviet Union in 1986, Nixon made it back on to Gallup’s annual list of the top 10 most admired men in America. We now know that after that trip Nixon wrote Ronald Reagan a private memo, an extensive assessment of Mikhail Gorbachev and the Soviet Union at that time. Nixon’s recommendations likely played a key role in President Reagan’s policies that resulted in the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. So, love him or hate him, from his 1940s-era tenure in Congress, to his ’50s-era tenure as vice president, to his time as president in the ’60s and ’70s, Richard Nixon is emerging as a major figure of the late 20th century.