While the new Congress ushered in a record number of women, the president's new cabinet could offer a stark contrast to that image. With the nominations of Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary and John Brennan for CIA Director—on the heels of Senator John Kerry's nomination for secretary of state—Obama's new national security team is shaping up to be an old boy's club composed exclusively of white men.
Moments after President Obama announced his nominees on Monday, Andrea Mitchell spoke with one of the newest women of Congress, Senator Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis. Asked about the President's new all-male foreign policy team, Baldwin pointed out that this is a perfect example of why women should have a place at the table to make sure women’s issues are considered.
“As these nominees come before the U.S. Senate,” Baldwin told Mitchell Reports, “I get to ask the tough questions and give a thorough review.”
When it comes time for Senate confirmation hearings, Senator Baldwin hopes to hear how Hagel, a former Republican Senator from Nebraska, would improve conditions for women service members.
“We've seen great changes and great strides in terms of women's service in the U.S. Military, but we also know that they face incredible challenges that their male counterparts don't necessarily face," Baldwin said.
In addition to being one of the nation’s newest female senators, Senator Baldwin is also the country’s first openly gay senator. And while the strongest criticism of Chuck Hagel has revolved around his record on Israel, he has also come under fire from the gay community for offensive remarks he made 14 years ago.
Commenting on Former President Bill Clinton’s nomination of Ambassador James Hormel in 1998, then-Senator Hagel reportedly said, “I think that it is an inhibiting factor to be gay—openly, aggressively gay like Mr. Hormel—to do an effective job.”
Despite Hagel’s recent apology for those 1998 comments, Senator Baldwin hopes to speak to the former senator “to see if his apology is sincere and sufficient,” she told Mitchell Reports.
“I want to hear how he's evolved on this issue in the last 14 years,” Baldwin said, adding that the issue is even more important in the wake of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
“The significance of the post to which he's been nominated is the respect for now openly gay members of the military, who because of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell can serve openly,” Baldwin said. “We need to see that implemented successfully.