Obama to nominate Chuck Hagel for defense secretary, source says


President Obama will nominate former senator Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican and Vietnam veteran, to be secretary of defense as early as Monday, according to a person close to the process.

The White House has informed the Hagel camp that Obama intends to announce the nomination and expects it to come Monday. But, the person with knowledge of the process, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the event could slip until Tuesday because of scheduling issues.

Hagel would add a well-known Republican to the president’s second-term Cabinet at a time when Obama, after a bitter presidential campaign, is looking to better bridge the partisan divide.

But Hagel’s expected nomination has drawn sharp criticism in recent weeks, particularly from Republicans who have questioned his commitment to Israel’s security.

The choice sets up a nomination fight Obama appeared unwilling to have over his preferred pick for secretary of state, Susan Rice, who pulled out of consideration for that job last month amid Republican complaints over her role in explaining the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, last year that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

In an appearance Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called Hagel’s selection “an in-your-face nomination.”

But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that Hagel’s recordwould be given a fair shake in the Senate if he is nominated. McConnell stopped short of saying whether he was prepared to support or oppose his former colleague.

“He’s certainly been outspoken in foreign policy and defense over the years,” McConnell said on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.” “The question we’ll be answering if he’s the nominee is: Do his views make sense for that particular job? I think he ought to be given a fair hearing, like any other nominee. And he will be.”

The Hagel announcement will begin what White House officials have said will probably be a busy week of announcements regarding who will fill out Obama’s second-term Cabinet and senior staff.

The president returned from a curtailed holiday in Hawaii on Sunday and will begin making a series of final personnel decisions delayed by the year-end negotiations with Congress over taxes and spending cuts.

Hagel, who twice received the Purple Heart for wounds suffered in Vietnam, served in the U.S. Senate for two terms ending in 2009.

He was an outspoken and often-independent voice as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, breaking with many in his party to sharply criticize the management of the Iraq war after he initially supported the invasion.

Hagel also has been a strong advocate for veterans, an issue Obama has spoken about frequently as tens of thousands of U.S. troops return from battlefields after more than a decade of war.

Much of the recent criticism over Hagel’s record has focused on his past opposition to imposing sanctions on Iran, which he voted against three times as a senator. He also supported labeling Iran a state sponsor of terrorism.

Courtesy: The Washington Post