January 7, 2013

Fight looms over Hagel nomination for Defense

Republicans worried about Israel are critical of the former senator – 'an in-your-face' pick by Obama.

By SCOTT WILSON The Washington Post

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Since leaving office, Hagel has served as co-chairman of Obama's intelligence advisory board.

Hagel has advised the president to open talks with Hamas, the armed Palestinian movement that does not recognize Israel's right to exist.

He also has complained about the influence that Israel's supporters exert on members of Congress, telling the writer Aaron David Miller that "the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here."

"If Hagel is nominated, it is very difficult to imagine a circumstance in which I could support his nomination," Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said on "Fox News Sunday."

But Hagel has many supporters, as well, including former ambassadors, senators, and secretaries of state who value his experience and independence.

A network of his supporters has rallied in recent weeks to offer a defense of Hagel's record as the criticism has grown, and say privately that they expect him to receive strong public defense from many Republicans and Democrats alike once the nomination is official.

Writing last week in the Wall Street Journal, Ryan Crocker, the former U.S. ambassador in Iraq and Afghanistan, called Hagel "a statesman," adding that "America has few of them."

Hagel, 66, would be taking over the Pentagon at a time of budget cuts and a changing mission after two long wars from Leon Panetta, who is retiring to his home in California.

If confirmed, he would join Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood as the second Republican in Obama's Cabinet.


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