Photo: White House
President Barack Obama announced at a press conference that he has chosen former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel to be the next Secretary of defence, setting up a fight with Senate Republicans for his confirmation.At the press conference, Obama also announced the selection of John Brennan, the White House homeland-security and counterterrorism adviser, to be the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
If confirmed by the Senate, Hagel would succeed outgoing Secretary of defence Leon Panetta. Brennan would fill the void created by the shocking resignation of former Gen. David Petraeus in November over an extramarital affair.
Hagel’s nomination, in particular, has already come under fire from both sides of the aisle. Hagel has been criticised for some past positions on Israel and Iran, as well as for some inflammatory comments made in opposing a U.S. ambassador’s nomination because he was what Hagel called “openly, aggressively gay.”
Here’s what happened at the press conference:
UPDATES: Obama first thanks Panetta and interim CIA director Mike Morell for their service.
Obama first nominated Hagel to serve as Secretary of defence, saying he is “the leader that our troops deserve.” He notes that Hagel would be the first war veteran to serve as Secretary of defence.
Obama called Hagel a patriot and hailed his bipartisan credentials as a former Republican Senator. He said Hagel is someone who knows that “war is not an abstraction.” He said Hagel understands that war is “something we only do when absolutely necessary.”
Obama introduced Brennan as someone with a “unique combination of smarts and strength.”
“I’m not sure he’s slept in four years,” Obama said.
Outgoing CIA director Leon Panetta speaks next. He commends Obama on his selection on Hagel.
“His experience, his judgment, his deep understanding of the security issues facing this issue make him the right choice,” Panetta said.
Panetta said he’ll go back to his walnut farm, where he joked he’ll be “dealing with a different set of nuts.”
Hagel speaks next.
“I’m honored by your trust and your confidence in me,” Hagel said. “… Mr. President, I will always give you my honest and most informed counsel.”
Speaking last, Brennan said he would make sure the CIA would uphold “the liberties, the freedoms and the values that we hold so dear.”
Obama gives one final shoutout to Brennan and Hagel, urging the Senate to confirm each quickly.
“They understand we are only successful because of the folks up-and-down the line,” Obama said. “The folks on the ground … removed from Washington and its politics.”
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