President Obama has made his decision two key cabinet positions—nominating Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense and John Brennan as director of the Central Intelligence Agency Monday.
Hagel’s nomination has already drawn fire– in 2008, he made a statement calling out “the Jewish lobby,” prompting criticism that he was anti-Semitic. A decade earlier as a senator, Hagel opposed an ambassadorial nominee for being “openly, aggressively gay;” Hagel recently apologized for those remarks.
The president’s support for Hagel indicates he’s prepared to fight a tough nomination battle. The White House maintains the former Nebraska senator’s comments were taken out of context and that he and President Obama’s views are in line.
For his part, Brennan has worked for at the CIA for 25 years and will, if confirmed, take over for retired general David Petraeus, who resigned amidst the scandal surrounding an extramarital affair. Brennan has advised the president on counter-terrorism. When his name was floated as a potential nominee during Obama’s first term, however, Brennan drew criticism for his role in designing President George W. Bush’ enhanced interrogation technique, or torture, policy. The criticism led Brennan to withdraw his name from consideration.
In a letter to Obama at the time, Brennan said he was “a strong opponent of many of the policies of the Bush administration, such as the preemptive war in Iraq and coercive interrogation tactics, to include water-boarding.”
On Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham trashed Hagel as “out of the mainstream thinking” on foreign policy, adding that “Hagel, if confirmed to be the Secretary of Defense, would be the most antagonistic Secretary of Defense towards the state of Israel in our nation’s history.”
On Monday’s Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough blanched at Graham’s characterization, noting that Hagel is a veteran and a longtime conservative voice. “This is a guy who runs the Atlantic Council, which is about as mainstream an organization as you will get in foreign policy,” Scarborough said. “He’s a realistic, he is not from the Lindsey Graham school of foreign policy, but rather from the Brent Scowcoft school of foreign policy, the Dr. Brzezinski school of foreign policy, the Colin Powell school of foreign policy, the George H.W. Bush school of foreign policy.”