In what may go down as the nomination hearing of the new millennium, President Obama is set to officially nominate former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel to be the next secretary of defense Monday afternoon.
Hagel faces an extraordinary amount of bipartisan criticism, as well as protestations from several conservative, gay-rights and pro-Israel groups for positions he has taken and comments he has made over the years.
A Senate Democratic aide told Politico, “Democrats are not currently unified behind Hagel, and it will take some real work by the administration to get them there, if it’s even possible.” And a GOP aide said, “I can’t imagine why [Obama] would choose to burn his political capital on this nomination. For what? There is no constituency for Chuck Hagel.”
Several top ranking Republican Senators have openly said they will not vote for Hagel to be confirmed, and outspoken Sen. Graham has “also expressed strong reservations,” according to the article.
The President’s support of Hagel has baffled many on both sides of the aisle about why he didn’t show the same support for U.N. Amb. Susan Rice who Obama wanted for secretary of state.
Bill Kristol, from The Weekly Standard, is also stumped by Obama’s choice of Hagel, and Politico said Kristol “is planning a ‘substantial’ paid-media campaign opposing the nomination.” Another article reported that Kristol’s group, The Emergency Committee for Israel, has begun a cable news television ad campaign against Hagel for his stance on Iran. The hard-hitting ad speaks directly to the President, saying,
President Obama says he supports Iran sanctions. Hagel voted against them. Hagel voted against labeling Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group. And while President Obama says all options are on the table for preventing a nuclear Iran, Hagel says military action is ‘not a viable, feasible, responsible option.’ President Obama: For Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel is not a ‘responsible option.’
According to Politico, though, the White House stands fully in support of the Hagel nomination. The article explained the logic behind choosing Hagel, saying:
It appeals to Obama’s bipartisan spirit — and the optics aren’t bad, either — to have any Republican as Defense secretary when Obama is seeking to end the war in Afghanistan and dramatically reduce the Pentagon’s budget. Hagel brings even more credibility to the task because he’s a decorated Vietnam veteran and would be the first from that war to lead the Pentagon. Hagel also has long-standing relationships with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden dating to their time in the Senate, and he’s a particularly close friend of Biden’s.