Adam Kredo reports that former undersecretary of defense for policy Michele Flournoy may have replaced Chuck Hagel as the current frontrunner for the secretary of defense nod:
Former Republican Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel may no longer be President Obama’s favored pick to run the Defense Department, sources told the Free Beacon.
Hagel immediately drew a frosty reception from observers who criticized him for advocating in favor of direct unconditional talks with Iran and for backing sizable cuts to the defense budget. …
Michele Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense for policy, is currently viewed as the frontrunner for the post.
“She will be the likely candidate as there has been criticism from liberals for possibly replacing a female secretary of state with a male, and [Flournoy would be] the first woman secretary of defense,” said one senior Senate aide with knowledge of the process. “Hagel could have been a test by the president—if Hagel’s positions could be supported then likely so would Flournoy.”
Flournoy’s name has been batted around as a more acceptable alternative to Hagel. But this is the first recent report I’ve seen that says she’s the most likely candidate. Either Obama has already determined a Hagel nomination isn’t worth the fight, or some senior Senate aide is trying to pump up speculation about Flournoy.
Flournoy would certainly be easier to confirm than Hagel, and Obama wouldn’t have to worry about defending someone who has made questionable comments about Israel and the “Jewish lobby.” That wouldn’t be the only benefit, either. BuzzFeed reported yesterday that women’s groups are clamoring for Obama to appoint the first female secretary of defense (especially since he’s losing a female secretary of state).
“I think she’s definitely getting a second look after Rice,” said a longtime Democratic defense policy hand, referring to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s withdrawal from consideration for the post at State.
Feminist groups are also pushing the White House to appoint Flournoy.
“There is no doubt that the woman knows her business,” said Marie Wilson, the founder of the White House Project, which advocates for women to take on leadership roles in all spheres.
“It’s Defense — the area where we have the slowest movement of women into top positions,” she said. “It would be a breakthrough.”
Obama’s reliance on the votes of women to defeat Mitt Romney raises the pressure on him to do more than seriously consider a woman for the top job, said one Democratic strategist.
It also can’t help Hagel’s case that this Emergency Committee for Israel ad will be running tomorrow and Thursday throughout the Washington, D.C. area: