Former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel backed Joe Sestak in 2010, and co-chairs President Obama’s intelligence advisory board, so it’s no surprise that he came out and endorsed Democrat Bob Kerrey’s losing campaign today. But according to Senator Mike Johanns, a friend of Hagel’s, the endorsement is part of an effort to position himself for a cabinet position in a second Obama term:
Democrat Bob Kerrey is receiving an endorsement from former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel on Thursday, a potential boost in his effort to pull ahead in Nebraska’s tight race for an open Senate seat. Republicans supporting GOP hopeful Deb Fischer scoffed and suggested Hagel was sniffing around for a cabinet seat in the Obama administration.
“His interest was more at the international level than it was Nebraska,” said Republican Sen. Mike Johanns, a personal friend of Hagel’s who pointed out that the former senator angered the GOP with criticism of former President George W. Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq.
“I think at the end of the day, people are going to look at this endorsement and see it for what it is,” Johanns added. I think it’s a step in his path to try to build those bone fides that he is truly an Obama person and deserves a place in his cabinet.”
National Journal recently named Hagel as a possible defense secretary replacement down the road. Back when Dennis Blair stepped down, Hagel was also floated as a possible candidate for director of national intelligence, but there probably won’t be an opening there anytime soon. Hagel was a strong opponent of the war in Iraq, and he’s no friend of Israel (which the National Jewish Democratic Committee pointed out back before he became an advisor to President Obama).
During a second term Obama would obviously have much more flexibility to make controversial appointments like Hagel, particularly if Democrats keep the Senate.