Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), a rank-and-file member of the SASC, is prepared to shoot down the nomination. “The president is choosing a fight rather than nominating a consensus pick. With sequestration’s defense cuts averted for only two months, this will take attention away from very pressing problems,” Wicker says. “[Current Defense Secretary Leon] Panetta was approved unanimously by the Senate. The president would be wise to nominate someone else for this critical position.”
Hagel also faces questions from the gay and lesbian community for calling then-President Bill Clinton’s choice for an ambassadorial appointment “openly, aggressively gay” in 1998.
Christopher Preble of the CATO Institute writes that Hagel ultimately is likely to be confirmed, but the process will prompt a fight among Republicans.
Neoconservatives, Preble says, will resist Hagel’s inclination to avoid putting “troops into harm’s way in pursuit of unclear objectives that do not advance U.S. interests. That is a mind-set that the neoconservatives cannot abide,” Preble writes. “Republican senators wishing to put distance between the party and the neocons should be happy to confirm a nominee who shares their views on most issues, and who is supported by people who have not been so badly wrong, so often.”
The choice of Brennan as CIA director also carries with it some controversy. Brennan is a 25-year CIA veteran, and was reported to have been Obama’s choice to lead the intelligence agency during his first term. But he was not considered confirmable, given concerns about his high-ranking role at the CIA during the George W. Bush administration.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is continuing to make that case four years later. “The Senate should not move forward with his nomination until all senators can assess the role of the CIA — and any role by Brennan himself — in torture, abuse, secret prisons, and extraordinary rendition during his past tenure at the CIA, as well as review the legal authorities for the targeted killing program that he has overseen in his current position,” says Laura Murphy, director of the ACLU’s Washington legislative office.
Brennan would replace Gen. David Petraeus, who resigned last November after acknowledging he had an extramarital affair with his biographer.
For his part, Panetta says he is retiring after 50 years of government service to tend to his walnut farm, where he will “deal with a different set of nuts.”