According to numerous reports, President Barack Obama is preparing to nominate former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel to serve as Secretary of defence, setting up a clash with Senate Republicans over his potential confirmation.The Los Angeles Times reports that the Hagel nomination will come Monday. Hagel would succeed outgoing Secretary of defence Leon Panetta.
Hagel’s nomination could lead to a particularly heated confirmation battle because of past comments on Israel and his opposition to the nomination of an ambassador he described as “openly, aggressively gay.” Even some on the left are questioning why Obama is willing to engage in the fight.
On the Sunday talk show circuit, Republicans slammed the pending nomination of Hagel. Sen. Lindsey Graham said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Hagel is an “in-your-face nomination” from Obama.
“I like Chuck Hagel. He served with distinction in Vietnam as an enlisted man — two Purple Hearts,” Graham said. “But quite frankly Chuck Hagel is out of the mainstream of thinking on most issues regarding foreign policy.”
Hagel was critical of both the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as a Senator. He has also taken fire for his positions on Israel and Iran, and he voted against some U.S. sanctions on Iran.
“The political reality is … that the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here,” Hagel told former Mideast peace negotiator Aaron David Miller in a 2006 interview.
That’s not the only potential problem for Hagel. He also is a target on the left for his comments made 14 years ago opposing the nomination of a U.S. ambassador because he was “openly, aggressively gay.” Hagel recently apologized for those comments and called them “insensitive.”
But one LGBT rights organisation, GetEQUAL, urged Obama to reconsider Hagel’s nomination with a harshly toned statement on Friday.
“Hagel’s recent apology for his insulting comments about the nomination of James Hormel as U.S. Ambassador to Luxemborg were hollow, politically expedient, and nakedly gratuitous,” the organisation said in the statement.
“The defence Department has made important strides toward creating an inclusive Armed Forces, but has miles left to go — nominating Hagel to lead the defence Department would be a staggering step backward for the LGBT community and an upheaval of President Obama’s past support for the LGBT community.”
The backlash from both sides has made some people normally in the President’s camp — like former labour Secretary Robert Reich — wonder why he’s so eager to engage in this fight.
Wonder why the President is willing to spend his precious political capital getting Chuck Hagel confirmed as defence Secretary.
— Robert Reich (@RBReich) January 6, 2013
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