President Barack Obama has officially named former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel and counterterrorism advisor John Brennan to fill the positions of Secretary of Defense and Director of the Center Intelligence Agency, respectfully.
If confirmed by the Senate, Hagel would replace outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. Brennan would replace Acting Director Michael Morell, who assumed the position in November after General David Petraeus’s abrupt resignation over an extramarital affair.
Ironically, the confirmations of Hagel – a “moderate” Republican – and Brennan are expected to be more controversial than that of incumbent Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), who was nominated by Obama to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State last month.
Hagel spent 12 years in the United States Senate, serving on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee alongside Kerry and then-Sen. Obama. Despite voting for the Patriot Act and the Iraq Resolution, Hagel was one of the first Republicans to speak out against the War on Terrorism and in 2007 co-sponsored legislation calling for an immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. Hagel’s views toward U.S.-Israeli relations are also questionable; in 2007 the then-Senator went so far as to say that the “Jewish lobby intimidated lawmakers.”
“This is an in your face nomination by the president to all of us who are supportive of Israel,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told CNN yesterday. “I don’t know what his management experience is regarding the Pentagon — little, if any, so I think it’s an incredibly controversial choice.”
In nominating Hagel, Obama called him “the leader that our troops deserve” and a “true American patriot.”
“Chuck Hagel’s leadership of our military would be historic,” Obama commented. “He’d be the first person of enlisted rank to serve as Secretary of Defense, one of the few secretaries who have been wounded in war, and the first Vietnam veteran to lead the department. As I saw during our visits together to Afghanistan and Iraq, in Chuck Hagel our troops see a decorated combat veteran of character and strength. They see one of their own.”
Since leaving office Hagel has also campaigned for several Democratic politicians, including President Obama (in both elections), 2010 Senate nominee Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) and 2012 Senate nominee – and former colleague – Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.).
Brennan, a New Jersey native, spent 25 years climbing the ranks at the CIA, having served as a daily intelligence briefer for President Bill Clinton, chief of staff to former CIA Director George Tenet, and deputy executive director of the CIA. In 2003 and 2004 Brennan served as the director of the newly-created Terrorist Threat Integration Center; under his watch the center distributed false intelligence to President Bush that helped lead to an “Orange Terror Alert” over Christmas 2003. He also served as the director of the National Counterterrorism Center. He was considered for the job of CIA Director in 2008 but withdrew his name from consideration after questions were raised about his views on waterboarding.
“Today, I can say to the men and women of the CIA: In Director John Brennan you will have one of your own; a leader who knows you; who cares for you, deeply; and who will fight for you every single day. And you’ll have a leader who has my complete confidence and my complete trust,” Obama commented.