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Contentious Cabinet choices?


February 20. 2013 1:11AM
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WASHINGTON ‚?? Despite Republican misgivings, President Barack Obama announced Monday he will nominate former GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel as his next defense secretary, calling him ‚??the leader our troops deserve.‚?Ě He also chose White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.


Controversy surrounds both choices, but the president called on the Senate to quickly confirm both.


‚??The work of protecting our nation is never done. We‚??ve got much to do,‚?Ě Obama said at the East Room announcement.


Obama announced his choice of Hagel, a political moderate who represented Nebraska in the Senate, even as critics questioned the pick over issues including Hagel‚??s views on Israel and Iran.


Facing a potential fight to get Hagel confirmed by the Senate, Obama praised his independence and bipartisan approach, and said that Hagel, a Vietnam veteran, understands war is not an abstraction. He also praised Hagel, 66, as one who could make ‚??tough fiscal choices‚?Ě in a time of increasing austerity.


Brennan, 57, a 25-year CIA veteran, is a close Obama adviser who has served in his present post for four years.


The president praised him as one of America‚??s most skilled and respected intelligence professionals.


Brennan withdrew from consideration for the spy agency‚??s top job in 2008 amid questions about his connection to harsh interrogation techniques used during the George W. Bush administration.


Hagel voted for U.S. military involvement in the Iraq war at first but later opposed it. He broke ranks with other Republicans to support Obama for president in 2008.


If confirmed, he would replace Leon Panetta as defense secretary.


Along with secretary of state nominee Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., Hagel and Brennan would play key roles implementing and shaping Obama‚??s national security priorities in a second term. All three men must be confirmed by the Senate.


In nominating Hagel, Obama signaled he is willing to take on a tough confirmation fight. Once Hagel emerged as Obama‚??s likely nominee, GOP lawmakers began sharply questioning his commitment to Israel and his willingness to take a hard line with Iran over its disputed nuclear program.


Of Brennan, Obama said he has traveled extensively in the Middle East and was once CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia. Brennan helped orchestrate administration policy in Yemen and the response to the Arab Spring, and played a role in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.


In a statement, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he had ‚??many questions and concerns about his nomination to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency, especially what role he played in the so-called enhanced interrogation programs while serving at the CIA during the last administration, as well as his public defense of those programs.‚?Ě


Hagel, something of a maverick among Republican senators during his two terms, has criticized the discussion of a military strike by either the U.S. or Israel against Iran. He also irritated some Israel backers with his reference to the ‚??Jewish lobby‚?Ě in the United States.




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