US President Barack Obama is expected to name former Republican senator Chuck Hagel as his next secretary of defence. An announcement is likely early next week.
A US army veteran, Hagel was among three shortlisted for the job. And now he’s the frontrunner, according to several news reports on Friday citing White House and congressional sources.
The same reports warned of a bruising confirmation process if the president were to indeed insist. Several Republican senators have already come out against Hagel.
Some of them don’t consider him Republican enough. Others find his dovish stand on military engagement ill-suited for dealing with the likes of Iran. These critics also find him hostile to Israel. And gays.
Incumbent Leon Panetta, who assured India of greater access to US weapons during a visit in June 2012, is the third senior cabinet member opting out of Obama’s second term.
First was secretary of state Hillary Clinton — Massachusetts senator John Kerry has been named to replace her — and treasury secretary Tim Geithner is next.
Before naming Kerry, it was reported, Obama had actively considered US ambassador Susan Rice for that job. But backed down in the face of opposition from Republicans. Faced with early and unrelenting opposition, Rice pulled out of the race. Kerry, who is the nominee now faces a much smoother confirmation. Hagel, on the other hand, doesn’t.
His comments on the clout of the Jewish lobby in the US have been used by critics to portray him as anti-Israel, a career-debilitating condition for any politician here.
A small ring of his supporters is trying to keep him above the water. But reports suggest that if in trouble, his candidature might not find enough White House support.