WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama nominated Sen. Chuck Hagel to head the Department of Defense Monday, sending a message to critics that war with Iran will be a last resort.
“Most importantly, Chuck understands that war is not an abstraction,” Obama said of the Vietnam war veteran and former Nebraska Republican Senator. “He understands that sending young Americans to fight and bleed in the dirt and mud — that’s something that we only do when it’s absolutely necessary. My frame of reference,’ he has said, ‘is geared to the guy at the bottom who is doings the fighting and the dying.’ With chuck, our troops will always know just like Sergeant Hagel was there for his own brother, Secretary Hagel will be there for you.”
The line was a clear shot at foreign policy hawks who have been pushing Obama to take a tougher stand against Iran’s nuclear program, and who criticize Hagel as not being supportive of Israel.
Obama also nominated John Brennan, the Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency. And in an apparent critique of to the agency’s history of waterboarding, Brennan, a 25-year veteran of the agency before working as Obama’s top counterterrorism aide, pledged that he will ensure the agency “reflects the liberties, the freedoms, and the values that we all hold dear.”
Obama called on the Senate to quickly confirm the pair even as his administration is gearing up for a potentially bruising confirmation battle for Hagel, saying “when it comes to National Security, we don’t like a lot of gaps.”
“I urge the Senate to confirm them as soon as possible so we can keep our nation secure,” he added.