President Obama is expected to pick former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel as his new Secretary of Defense on Monday, setting up a battle between the left and right flanks of the Israel lobby and between realist supporters of Hagel and his neoconservative detractors.
Foreign Policy‘s Josh Rogin has the story:
White House officials and sources close to Hagel declined to confirm to The Cable that Hagel is the president’s choice to be the replace Leon Panetta at the helm of the Pentagon, but several sources close to the process said have told The Cable that the White House and Hagel have been in touch on a regular basis and that Hagel is indeed the expected pick. Decisions about the timing and logistics of the announcement are being finalized now.
The Cable had previously confirmed that Hagel successfully complete the vetting process, as have Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter and former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy.
But other White House observers cast doubt on the Hagel pick earlier today. Speaking on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show, reporter Chuck Todd said that while Obama was in love with the idea of picking Hagel, the administration was going to yank the former senator from contention later today. Watch Todd’s prediction:
We’ll have to wait and see who is right: Rogin or Todd. On the same show, as Think Progress notes, the panel derided the campaign against Hagel as “unbelievable,” “disgusting” and “disgraceful.”
The Daily Beast’s Eli Lake also reports that Hagel is Obama’s pick.
Update: After his morning appearance casting doubt on the Hagel nomination, Todd reports for NBC that “key special-interest groups involved in national security issues say they have been told to be prepared for a Chuck Hagel nomination for Defense Secretary, either as early as Monday or perhaps more likely Tuesday of next week.
Meanwhile, Rogin also notes another interesting tidbit related to the Hagel pick: the leader of the Log Cabin Republicans, which took out a full-page ad in the New York Times opposing Hagel, has resigned. The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald had raised questions about where the Log Cabin Republican group, a pro-gay conservative organization, got the money for the ad. Greenwald questioned whether advocates for Israel or neoconservatives had paid for the New York Times ad.
And in other Hagel news, Jewish Voice for Peace has endorsed the potential pick. From an e-mail they sent out to supporters:
America’s Israel Lobby has unleashed a vicious smear campaign against former U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel, an independent thinker who President Obama wants for Secretary of Defense.
Unless we act now to counter thousands of emails that Israel lobby groups have already sent to the White House, President Obama may yield to pressure, sending the message that the Israel Lobby has veto power over all key positions in the Administration.
Chuck Hagel is an old-school conservative Republican, unlikely to make major changes in foreign policy. But he is being targeted because he is reluctant to go to war with Iran, believes we should keep the door open to dialogue with groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, and doesn’t kowtow to AIPAC.
His conservative track record means he may not be everyone’s top pick, but this battle is much bigger than Chuck Hagel.