Hagel Faces Tough Fight over Israel Record

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President Obama has nominated former GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel to serve as secretary of defense, a move that's drawing fire, especially among Senate Republicans.

With his Hawaii vacation is over, the president now appears ready to battle for his latest controversial nominee.

"I served with Chuck Hagel, I know him. He's a patriot," Obama said.

Some in Washington believe the Hagel appointment is designed to help put Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his place in the Middle East.

What effect would Hagel's confirmation have on U.S.-Israel relations? Dr. Sebastian Gorka, national security expert with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, explains this and more, on CBN Newswatch, Jan. 7.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called Hagel's promotion an "in your face" nomination by the president.

"If confirmed to be secretary of defense, (Hagel) would be the most antagonistic secretary of defense toward Israel in our nation's history," Lindsey warned.

Hagel has said he is not intimidated by what he calls the Jewish lobby in Washington. He also strongly opposes any military plans to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

And as a Republican senator, he opposed the successful surge in Iraq, calling it "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam."

Hagel's views haven't gone down well with Senate conservatives who will vote on his appointment.

"The job of secretary of defense is to be a serious, credible strength and deterrent," Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said. "Unfortunately, I think weakness in a secretary of defense invites conflicts because bullies don't respect weakness."

Prospects of the Hagel nomination have already prompted an ad campaign from opponents.

"For secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel is not a responsible option," one ad said.

But some Senate Democrats are defending the president's pick.

"Chuck Hagel is a tremendous patriot and statesman and served this country in Vietnam, served this country as a United States senator," Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said.

Although Hagel is a Republican, party leaders are less than enthusiastic about his nomination.

"I'm going wait and see how the hearings go and see whether Chuck's views square with the job he will be nominated to do," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said.

The president is expected to have less trouble confirming his new CIA director, John Brennan.  A 25-year veteran of the CIA, Brennan is an adviser to Obama and also worked in the Bush administration. 

He once called Hezbollah "an interesting organization" and referred to Jerusalem by its Islamic name, "Al Quds."

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CBN News
John Waage

John Waage

CBN News Sr. Editor

John Waage has covered politics and analyzed elections for CBN News since 1980, including primaries, conventions, and general elections. 

He also analyzes the convulsive politics of the Middle East.