President Barack Obama announced today that he has nominated his top counterterrorism adviser John Brennan as the next CIA director and former Republican senator from Nebraska Chuck Hagel for the position of Secretary of Defense, ignoring weeks of neoconservative criticism of Hagel’s record.
“Chuck Hagel is the leader that our troops deserve,” Obama said in the East Room of the White House during the announcement. “He is a champion of our troops, and our values, and our military families.” Outgoing Secretary Leon Panetta said that Hagel is “a patriot, a decorated combat veteran…and I believe his experience and judgment makes him an excellent choice for Secretary of Defense.”
In taking over at the Pentagon from Secretary Panetta, Hagel is tasked with implementing a time of change that began in Obama’s first term. Hagel — who served in the Senate from 1997 to 2009 — was an early supporter of the Iraq War, but quickly became an extremely vocal thorn in the side of the Bush administration as an outspoken critic of the war’s prosecution. That war has now ended under President Obama, with the war in Afghanistan due to come to a close during Hagel’s service in Obama’s Cabinet.
Despite his credentials, and the strong likelihood that he will be confirmed, the path to the Pentagon will be one littered with false attacks and cheap shots that ignore the nuance of Hagel’s past statements. The smear machine has been gearing up for weeks as President Obama weighed his final decision and the White House sent out trial balloons. In response, an avalanche of bipartisan and high-level support has come out in defense of Hagel’s strong record, a few selections of which are listed here: