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It’s official. Or it will be soon. Democratic sources tell Politico that President Obama will hold a news conference tomorrow to formally nominate former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel as the next Defense Secretary. Obama will also reportedly name a successor for disgraced Gen. David Petraeus’ CIA job.
Hagel will be the main event, though, mostly because of the controversy over his past comments on Iran, Israel and gay people, the latter of whom he said in 1998 couldn’t represent the nation’s values abroad.
But President Obama, who says Hagel’s apology for those remarks shows a “positive change,” seems confident in Hagel’s abilities and experiences. Said a Democratic insider of the soon-to-be nominee, “Chuck Hagel is a decorated war hero who would be the first enlisted soldier and Vietnam veteran to go on to serve as Secretary of Defense. He had the courage to break with his party during the Iraq War, and would help bring the war in Afghanistan to an end while building the military we need for the future.”
Hagel was also described as a “champion of the troops” whom President Obama trusts: “The President knows him well, has traveled with him to Iraq and
Afghanistan, trusts him, and believes he represents the proud tradition
of a strong, bipartisan foreign policy in the United States.”
It’s unclear how conservatives who question Hagel’s commitment to Israel and liberals who worry about his discriminatory past will react to the nomination: will they launch a campaign to block his nomination? Even those in the Senate, the body that will ultimately confirm or reject Hagel’s nomination, don’t know for sure.
One Democratic Senate source told Politico, “I don’t think Dems just fall in line. Ultimately, he may be confirmed. But at this stage, his fate is totally up in the air. He will really have to work hard to overcome some of his previous statements and positions.”
But do Democrats really want to look like they’re obstructing the president? Wouldn’t they rather leave that to conservatives?