President Barack Obama on Monday will nominate Republican Chuck Hagel as his next defense secretary and counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to head the CIA, two choices likely to stoke controversy as he fills out his second-term national security team.
The selection of Hagel, a maverick former senator and decorated Vietnam veteran tapped to replace Leon Panetta at the Pentagon, appears destined for a bruising Senate confirmation battle against critics who have already launched an onslaught over his record on Israel and Iran.
Obama could also face opposition from human rights groups over his choice of Brennan, a CIA veteran who withdrew from consideration for the spy agency’s top job in 2008 after questions were raised about his views on enhanced interrogation techniques used on terrorism suspects during the Bush administration.
I’m as quick as the next guy to criticize President Obama, but I have to admit, both retaining Gates and then nominating Panetta as SecDef were about as good as we on the right could expect. As for Hagel, it could be worse. I don’t see that he has any particular qualifications for the job. And of course, there’s building bipartisan opposition to his nomination.
I’m generally in favor of a President having fairly wide latitude with regards to cabinet appointments. That is, not every nomination should be reflexively opposed. I just tend to think that senators tend to make crappy cabinet officers, as opposed to executives who have more hands on experience with management and leadership than with sitting in committees. What I find appalling here is, Hagel, a “least worst” choice will likely face a bruising nomination process, whereas Kerry, nominated for SecState, is a “worst choice” and will likely be confirmed with little furor.
Brennan to CIA? Once again, Obama could have done worse.
Update- I posted this without any coffee on board. DrewM at the mothership does a much better job of articulating my misgivings about the Hagel nomination.