Who is Chuck Hagel?
Posted: 01/07/2013 12:00:00 AM EST
He is the man president Obama has earmarked to be the next Defense Secretary, set to replace the outgoing Leon Panetta. The president nominated the former Nebraska Senator yesterday, together with his nomination of John Brennan as CIA director, despite the unease his appointment may cause in both Democtrat and Republican circles.
Hagel is a Republican who was first elected to the Senate in 1996 and re-elected in 2002. Following his retirement in 2008, Hagel took up a position as a professor at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.
He is an “in-your-face nomination … (and) would be the most antagonistic secretary of defence towards the state of Israel in our nation’s history,” Lindsey Graham, a Senator for South Carolina, told CNN.
Lindsay is referring to Hagel’s controversial comments made in reference to America's relationship with Israel, whereby he once indicated that the Jewish lobby in Washington “intimidates a lot of people.”
“I'm not an Israeli senator. I'm a United States senator,” Hagel has been quoted as saying.
Hagel voted in favour of the Iraq Resolution in 2002 but later became a staunch critic of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In July 2007, Hagel was one of three Republican Senators who supported Democratic-proposed legislation requiring a troop withdrawal from Iraq to begin within 120 days. He is known for being bi-partisan and in 2005 once said in reference to president Bush “I took an oath of office to the Constitution, I didn't take an oath of office to my party or my president.” Furthermore, in his 2008 book America: Our Next Chapter: Tough Questions, Straight Answers, Hagel argues for an independent leadership and even a new political party.
A veteran of the war in Vietnam, 66 year-old Hagel covets two Purple Hearts. He still has bits of shrapnel in his chest. Following his return to the U.S. Hagel became a radio newscaster and later co-founded cellular carrier Vanguard Cellular Systems Inc., which was later acquired by AT&T Wireless.
Obama faces a battle to push Hagel through the confirmation process but, after conceding defeat over appointing Susan Rice as his next Secretary of State, the president is expected to remain resolute in his conviction.
“I've served with Chuck Hagel,” Obama said. “I know him. He is a patriot. He is somebody who has done extraordinary work both in the United States Senate, somebody who served this country with valour in Vietnam.”
“In the Senate, I came to admire his courage and his judgment, his willingness to speak his mind, even if it wasn’t popular, even if it defied the conventional wisdom,” Obama said. “And that’s exactly the spirit I want on my national security team, a recognition that when it comes to the defence of our country, we are not Democrats or Republicans, we are Americans.”
A Democratic aide told POLITICO: "Chuck Hagel is a decorated war hero who would be the first enlisted soldier and Vietnam veteran to go on to serve as secretary of defense. He had the courage to break with his party during the Iraq War, and would help bring the war in Afghanistan to an end while building the military we need for the future."
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