In the trench warfare that characterizes politics in the nation's capital these days,
What is their problem with Hagel?
First -- and this is earning him enmity from both sides of the aisle -- he is not very popular with the pro-
Second, Hagel, in the past, has favored negotiation rather than confrontation with
Third, the conservative social views he held as a senator are bugging liberals. His position on
Fourth, Democrats are wondering why in the heck Democratic presidents so often pick Republicans to run
With all this working against Hagel, the question is, why did Obama choose him and not someone else who might be less of a lightning rod for criticism?
It is assumed that the choice of a Republican was meant to be a display of bipartisanship. If so, Hagel is apparently not the kind of Republican most Republicans consider a real Republican. It is said Hagel was one of Obama's mentors during the president's single term in the Senate and that they are pals. Well, friendship is swell, but is not necessarily the most salient qualification for a big job like this.
Probably the most compelling thing that drove Obama's choice -- in addition to friendship and the bipartisan appeal -- is that their visions for the future of the American military are in close accord. Both believe war should be a last resort and, although most presidents and defense secretaries say they believe this, two wars in the last 10 years prove that some people are more eager to send armies abroad than others. Hagel and Obama want to bring the troops home from Afghanistan sooner rather than later and keep them home as the military is reformed and downsized for an age of drones and special ops.
Hagel also believes that the Defense Department is bloated and needs a serious weight loss plan. Obama thinks so too, and, with deficits still soaring, he would be happy to have someone in charge at the Pentagon who will not resist budget cuts.