Pro-con on Hagel’s nomination as defense secretary

On Monday, President Obama nominated Chuck Hagel, 66, a Republican who served two terms in the Senate from Nebraska before stepping down in 2008, to succeed Leon Panetta as secretary of defense. He would become the first Vietnam veteran, and the first former enlisted man, to head the Pentagon. You’d think Republicans as well as Democrats would be delighted with this appointment. The wiser ones are. Here’s a man who grew up in poverty, got drafted, earned two Purple Hearts, worked his way through college, made a fortune in the cellphone business and then entered public service. He’s subsequently in the private equity business and now teaches at Georgetown University. If Horatio Alger were a Republican, he’d look a lot like Chuck Hagel. Barring any new disclosures, there is nothing in Hagel’s past or present that should keep any senator from voting for confirmation. And there is a great deal to suggest that he is precisely the leader the Pentagon will need as the nation transitions out of an era of too many wars and unlimited military spending. Hagel, rifle squad leader-turned-internationalist, would bring the right perspective to Pentagon priorities. Troops first. Contractors last. Look before you leap. – St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Chuck Hagel, the president’s nominee to be the next secretary of defense, must face serious questions about his record, his statements and troubling hints of anti-Semitism. Once a Republican senator who supported the war in Iraq, he turned against the war, and opposed the surge. Long a darling to those eager for rapprochement with Iran, he has sharply criticized sanctions and opposed the designation of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity. Hagel has decried “intimidation” by the “the Jewish lobby” in Washington. Taken in the context of other positions and in light of his consistent willingness to downplay the threat posed by terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah, it is not unreasonable to ask whether Hagel has a problem with Jews and the Jewish state. Last but not least, one must wonder at the president nominating a man with a history of slurs against homosexuals, an A rating from the National Rifle Association and a zero rating from the pro-choice lobby NARAL, all questions on which Obama is at odds. – Danielle Pletka, American Enterprise Institute, in USA Today