Lieberman won't replace Hagel, but who will?

The Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, Arlington County, Virginia.
The Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, Arlington County, Virginia.
Effective trolling of political rivals is a fine art, requiring a delicate touch. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) apparently prefers a more ham-fisted approach.

Sen. Ted Cruz has an idea for a new Defense secretary that the incoming Senate Armed Services chairman would love. The Texas Republican on Monday floated the name of former Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, the independent Democrat from Connecticut, to replace Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon.

In a statement, the right-wing Texan argued, "One strong option would be former Senator Joe Lieberman, a member of the President's own party with deep experience and unshakable commitment to the security of the United States. I urge the President to give him full and fair consideration for this critical position."
To be sure, the Senate Armed Services, which will consider President Obama's next nominee, will be chaired by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who would certainly be thrilled to confirm Lieberman. But given that Lieberman disagrees with the White House and the Democratic mainstream on practically every possible aspect of foreign policy and national security, I'm fairly certain the president would sooner pick me to lead the Defense Department than the Connecticut independent.
But if Lieberman won't make the short list, who will? Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) always seems to find his name under consideration when posts like these open up, but the Democratic senator sounded "emphatic" yesterday when he said he isn't interested in the post.
And though Obama is always capable of surprising people -- Loretta Lynch's A.G. nomination was not widely predicted -- there are two names who appear to be the leading contenders to lead the Pentagon.
Michèle Flournoy, a former under secretary of defense, and Ashton Carter, a former deputy secretary of defense, seem to be the only two names on the radar. The New York Times reported this morning:

Both are seasoned national security professionals whose credibility among members of both parties and Defense Department experience would be considered assets in managing the threat from the Islamic State, budget cuts and other challenges. "If what they're looking for is someone to help them figure out strategic approaches to the biggest challenges we face, that sounds like the slate that they've put together," said Kathleen H. Hicks, the director of the International Security program at the policy group CSIS, who until last year was a senior Defense Department official. [...] Ms. Flournoy, 53, and Mr. Carter, 60, have "grown up in the Pentagon and have great institutional support from inside," said Roger Zakheim, the former general counsel and deputy staff director of the House Armed Services Committee.

If the White House hopes to avoid bruising confirmation fights, it's worth noting that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said yesterday that Flournoy and Carter would be "solid choices."