WASHINGTON — Former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s chances of being Barack Obama’s Secretary of Defense are quickly dimming, as critics point to the White House’s silence in the face of questions about the Nebraska Republican’s record.
“I think [Sunday] was Chuck Hegel’s obituary on the morning shows,” said senior GOP senate aide and frequent Hagel critic in reference to Democrats, including Sen. Chuck Schumer refusing to say if they would support him. “The White House got final answer that a Hagel nomination would be dead on arrival so now they move on to [Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton] Carter or [former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michèle]Flournoy. Either of those two would get Republican support.”
Hagel, a Republican realist skeptical of American military action in Iran and elsewhere, has drawn fierce criticism from Republican and Democratic hawks. He has faced questions, in particular, about his support for Israel, and criticism for referring to the “Jewish lobby” and a Clinton-era ambassadorial nominee as “openly aggressively gay.” But the White House has offered few words of support for Hagel, an Obama administration appointee and an ally of the president’s.
“What I can tell you is that Sen. Hagel fought and bled for his country,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters last week, refusing to comment on specific criticisms. “He served his country well. He was an excellent senator.”
But unlike Susan Rice, who withdrew her name for consideration to head the State Department amid Republican criticism of her statements after the Benghazi attack in September, Hagel is all on his own, making an organized and forceful defense from the Obama administration even more necessary.
Other Democrats who have indicated their support for Hagel have also backed away in recent days. BuzzFeed emailed no fewer than five backers about the anemic state of the Hagel defense, all declined to comment or didn’t respond.
One Democratic operative called the silence “telling.”
“I’ve been talking with a lot of Democrats about Hagel and it’s clear that the White House is not making the ask for the heavy lift on this front,” the operative said. “Sounds like they’re moving on and leaving the Hagel loyalists to defend their man alone.”
A long time democratic insider echoed that point, saying it was clear that Obama was moving away from Hagel. White House officials refuse to comment on potential personnel moves.
“The White House was never actually all that close to naming Hagel, and to a degree feels awkward about the dust-up about him, however, they have no real interest in defending him because they don’t plan to pick him and see the issues being raise as hard to defend,” the insider said. “The Hagel dust-up is the best thing that could have happened for the President and the party. It nets out well, giving easy sailing to their real choice when the time comes.”
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Check out Hagel’s history of how he came to be elected as senator. Prior to entering the election race in 1996 he owned the company that provided the electronic voting machines (without paper trail) that were used to elect him in Nebraska. His stunning senate race win and his wins across every demographic group ran contrary to every poll leading up to the elections and every exit poll. With no paper trail … no proof that this patriot cheated. I think this is a “patriot” we can afford to let pass as Secretary of Defense.
If Chuck Hagel was a supporter of bringing back the draft, (and that’s an “if” because I’m too tired to check) I’d assume it falls in line with the support of draft reinstatement by people like Charlie Rangel—reinstatement of a draft, without exemption options, means it’s just as likely that the children of the rich and powerful will have to go die for America as the poor (currently the economic makeup of our armed forces is overwhelmingly slanted towards who grew up in poverty.)…it’s a strike against neo-conservatism and hawkishness in favor of a more-peaceful foreign policy; it’s a lot easier to support sending American kids off to die when you know there is no chance they might be your kids or your kids’ kids. Hagel, as a veteran of Vietnam, has been the most-visible voice for a conservative basis for peaceful foreign policy in the past 30 years. One has to assume that to color any position he takes on defense, foreign policy or militarism.
My memory is not that good on Hagel, but I seem to remember that he was a fan of bringing back the draft before he left the
senate, which I oppose just about as much as cannibalism. But my memory must be wrong. Lindsey Graham, the SC warmonger, is against Hagel, so Hagel may not be pro-draft, after all.
- seang9 Chuck Hagel Loses Altitude