Mike Allen may have spoken too soon when he reported last week that the Chuck Hagel trial balloon had popped. RightScoop and Gestetner Updates both report that the White House phoned Jewish leaders last night to inform them that Hagel will be nominated for defense secretary this week. But probably the biggest indicator that Hagel is still in the running is that Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations told a radio host yesterday that he would most likely be nominated on Monday.
“It’s most likely that on Monday they will announce that Hagel will be the choice. It’s obviously something that raised a lot of concern,” Hoenlein told talk show host Zev Brenner. “I think it is something that we’ll live with and we’ll work with him, whoever is in office. But … his past statements and his past record on a lot of issues–not just Jewish issues, I think American issues–raised concerns.”
It’s not clear what information Hoenlein’s comments were based on. He told the Algemeiner he didn’t receive a phone call from the White House and doesn’t know anyone who did, which has been the general response from Jewish community figures I’ve reached out to about this. That doesn’t mean the phone call reports are wrong, just that they’re still very hazy at this point.
Obama also defended Hagel on Meet the Press this morning, which some see as a sign he’s preparing to nominate him. But keep in mind, Obama also defended Susan Rice from attacks on her potential secretary of state nomination, and we know how that turned out. Obama was responding to a direct question about criticism of Hagel this morning, so he really had no choice but to stick up for him–Hagel is still on his intelligence advisory board.
The bottom line is that Hagel’s potential nomination isn’t as dead as it looked last week. It sounds like we should know for sure by tomorrow afternoon.