Battle Lines

Washington readies for potential Hagel nomination fight


A battle is shaping up over former Nebraskan Senator Chuck Hagel’s potential nomination as defense secretary. President Barack Obama may name Hagel as the nominee as early as Monday, reported Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin.

Rogin reported:

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.

Opposition from Republican Sens. John Cornyn (Tex.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.), and from retired Democratic congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts, as well as from pro-Israel and gay rights groups, suggest it may be difficult for Hagel to receive needed votes.

Hagel’s detractors are moving forward with their campaign against the nomination, which has been expanding ever since The Cable first reported in November that Hagel was in consideration for the Pentagon post. That campaign has included anonymous Senate aides calling Hagel an anti-Semite, the Washington Post editorial board writing that, “Chuck Hagel is not the right choice for defense secretary,” and the Emergency Committee for Israel, which counts among its board members Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, running a television ad criticizing Hagel’s opposition to unilateral sanctions against Iran. “For secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel is not a responsible option,” the ad claims.

However, Hagel does have a base of supporters defending his legitimacy “despite a lack of White House support that would come if the nomination materializes.”