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Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.) once again relished his role as conservative warrior-in-chief, attacking President Obama’s selection of Eric Fanning to become the next Secretary of the Army.
If confirmed by the Senate, Fanning would become the first openly gay civilian to hold that post. Fanning currently serves as the Acting Under Secretary of the Army, and has previously spent 25 years serving in various military-related positions, including as Deputy Under Secretary and Deputy Chief Management Officer for the Department of the Navy, and as Under Secretary and Acting Secretary of the Air Force. According to The Washington Post, Fanning was recommended for the job primarily because of his long tenure at the Department of Defense and his experience working with the the department’s weapons programs.
But, according to Huckabee, Obama’s pick of Fanning is simply a political ploy to appease the LGBT community.
“It’s clear President Obama is more interested in appeasing America’s homosexuals than honoring America’s heroes,” the former Arkansas governor said in a statement obtained by CNN. “Veterans suicide is out-of-control and military readiness is dangerously low, yet Obama is so obsessed with pandering to liberal interest groups he’s nominated an openly gay civilian to run the Army. Homosexuality is not a job qualification. The U.S. military is designed to keep Americans safe and complete combat missions, not conduct social experiments.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), another GOP contender who has also tried to corner the conservative evangelical vote in the primary, also raised questions about Fanning’s nomination and qualifications.
“I certainly hope that the secretary of the Army is being nominated because the President wants the right person to defend our nation and not because he is looking to make a political statement on issues of sexual orientation unrelated to defending this nation and keeping us safe,” Cruz said at the Faith and Freedom presidential forum in Iowa. “But as I said, I will wait until his confirmation hearing to assess his record on the merits.”
The Human Rights Campaign slammed Huckabee following his remarks about Fanning, calling him “unfit” for the presidency.
“Mike Huckabee is so blinded by his own bigotry that he would oppose someone with two decades of national security experience just because of his sexual orientation,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC’s senior vice president of policy and political affairs. “Mike Huckabee’s naked prejudice and willingness to smear an experienced public servant shows he is unfit to be commander in chief. Other candidates should make immediately clear they won’t tolerate Huckabee’s bigotry and that they will make these decisions based on Eric Fanning’s experience and on the merits.”
Throughout the campaign, Huckabee — and also, to a lesser extent, Cruz — has frequently weighed in on LGBT-related issues to stress his opposition to homosexuality. Huckabee has previously come out against allowing transgender military personnel to serve openly, has invoked “bathroom panic” when speaking of transgender nondiscrimination laws and policies, and has decried the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing marriage equality nationwide. Both Huckabee and Cruz flocked to the side of Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who has refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, with Huckabee fielding a question about Davis in which he alleged Christians were being persecuted for speaking out against homosexual behavior and same-sex marriage.
Fanning’s former boss, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, issued his own statement praising his former assistant’s qualifications, and calling upon the Senate to quickly confirm Fanning to the post.
“Eric served as my first chief of staff at the Pentagon, and it has been a privilege over the course of my career to work alongside him and watch him develop into one of our country’s most knowledgeable, dedicated, and experienced public servants,” Carter said. “I know he will strengthen our Army, build on its best traditions, and prepare our ground forces to confront a new generation of challenges.”
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