Chuck Hagel: Have Republicans preemptively sunk another Obama nominee?

Susan Rice bailed on her secretary of state bid after GOP hectoring. Now Obama's reported pick for defense is on the ropes, too

Conservative critics say former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) isn't a strong enough supporter of Israel.
(Image credit: Junko Kimura/Getty Images)

Only a week ago, the news media was confidently reporting that President Obama was planning to nominate former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) to replace Leon Panetta as defense secretary. Now, "besieged by criticism from right and left, and considerable skepticism from his former Senate colleagues," says Michael Hirsh at National Journal, "Hagel appears to be following the path of Susan Rice as a trial-balloon nominee who finds himself quickly losing altitude in Washington." As with Rice, President Obama's reported first pick for secretary of state who withdrew her name from consideration amid staunch opposition from some key Republicans, the White House is "now signaling that it may soon puncture Hagel's hopes," too. Just as Rice's exit opened the door for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) at state, Hagel's waning fortunes could be good news for Michele Flournoy, an under defense secretary in Obama's first term, or Ashton Carter, the current deputy defense secretary.

Most of the conservative criticism of Hagel has been over whether he's a strong enough supporter of Israel — he once used the phrase "the Jewish lobby" — and Tough enough on Iran. (From the left, he's facing heat over calling a Bill Clinton ambassador nominee, James Hormel, "openly aggressively gay" in 1998.) But Hagel "is also paying, in part, for his bluntness and bravery in advocating unpopular positions during his 12 years in the Senate," says National Journal's Hirsh, including his "gutsy and prescient stand against his own party and President George W. Bush in the run-up to the Iraq invasion — and his criticism of the war's management afterwards."

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up
To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us