The rumors that President Obama might nominate Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense have been swirling for a while, but this Reuters story is the first time I’ve seen them sourced to senior administration officials:
President Barack Obama is expected to announce his nominees for secretaries of state and defense in the next two weeks, with former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel on the short list of potential choices to head the Pentagon, senior administration officials said on Tuesday.
Hagel, whose appointment would give Obama’s reshuffled second-term Cabinet a bipartisan cast, met the Democratic president at the White House this week to discuss a post on his national security team. But there was no sign that Obama had decided on any of the key nominations he will put forth.
Could Hagel’s appointment even get through the Senate? He served there for over a decade, but he’s alienated fellow Republicans over the last few years by publicly criticizing the party and joining Obama’s intelligence advisory board. That’s strike one, but strikes two and three against him are that he’s a vocal opponent of Israel and soft on Iran. If he’s nominated, it would basically mean the administration has come to terms with Iran getting the bomb. Adam Kredo reports that pro-Israel groups are raising alarms:
The White House’s 2010 effort to enlist Hagel drew outrage from Jewish leaders critical of Hagel’s stand on Israel. His current status as the frontrunner is no less controversial.
“It would be a very unwise and disastrous choice for U.S. policies and activities regarding the Middle East,” said Morris Amitay, a former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
“You could probably consider him last in the class,” Amitay said when asked to rate Hagel’s views on Israel. “He’s probably the worst.”
Hagel’s efforts to open up direct negotiations with Iran and its terrorist proxy Hamas have placed him at odds with the pro-Israel community and the majority of Congress.
He can’t afford to lose national security Republicans and GOP leadership and pro-Israel Democrats and still get confirmed. Either Obama is so intent on nominating Hagel that he’s not thinking clearly, or these stories are just meant to be a consolation for Hagel when he gets passed over for the position.