There have been conflicting reports today on whether Chuck Hagel is still a serious contender for the defense secretary nomination. But this story comes from Josh Rogin, who has led the pack on the Chuck Hagel reporting ever since he broke the news that the former senator was being vetted for the position. And according to Rogin, the White House is preparing to go ahead with the nomination:
White House officials and sources close to Hagel declined to confirm to The Cable that Hagel is the president’s choice to be the replace Leon Panetta at the helm of the Pentagon, but several sources close to the process said have told The Cable that the White House and Hagel have been in touch on a regular basis and that Hagel is indeed the expected pick. Decisions about the timing and logistics of the announcement are being finalized now.
The Cable had previously confirmed that Hagel successfully complete the vetting process, as have Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter and former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy.
Based on Bill Kristol’s editorial this morning, it sounds like his sources are saying something similar:
It looks, though, as if President Obama may be determined to nominate Chuck Hagel. If he does, he will be doing himself and the nation a disservice. The next secretary of defense should be a well-respected mainstream national security leader, not an out-of-the-mainstream mediocrity. So if the president nominates Chuck Hagel, we would expect a vigorous examination of the Hagel record by senators of both parties, followed by the United States Senate withholding its consent to his selection as secretary of defense. This would give the president another chance to select a man or woman of distinction for this high office, one who would command widespread support and would be confirmed easily. And this would be a better outcome for our military, the Defense Department, and the nation.
Nothing is certain until Obama makes the announcement. If he does nominate Hagel, it was an odd political strategy to let him get his nose bloodied by the media and critics for nearly a month without stepping in and defending him. Maybe the White House figured the opposition would use up its best arguments and tire out after a few weeks. But based on some of the new and damaging stories coming out about Hagel, I’m not sure that was a wise bet. If anything, the Hagel opposition has solidified, and he’s in for a serious fight in the Senate if he’s the pick. He’d be facing off against Senate Armed Services Committee members who fundamentally disagree with him on foreign policy, including John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte. Democrats on the committee have also expressed concerns.
One thing is certain. If Obama is willing to put up with all of that for a nominee, he must be really invested in this guy. And considering Hagel’s views–which are ostensibly out-of-step with Obama’s–that raises serious doubts about whether the president’s true positions on Iran, Israel and national defense are the same as the ones he’s claimed publicly.