We are gearing up for the confirmation of Chuck Hagel as the new Defense Secretary in President Barack Obama's second term. With the inauguration coming in less than a week, and the President's focus on guns, immigration, and the debt ceiling; Chuck Hagel is on display and a hot topic of conversation in Washington DC, too.
He is scheduled to meet this week with Chuck Schumer (D-NY) considered a key Senator, a Jewish voice from New York City. He will surely be asked about Israel, and its security, as well as dealing with Iran. Hagel, like the President, does not believe military action against Iran, even to prevent the acquisition of a nuclear weapon, is a productive option. Schumer has already expressed skepticism of Hagel's views on containment, potentially allowing Iran access to a nuclear weapon but trying to manage the use and total number, trying to prevent a mini-arms race in the Middle East. This is a "red line" that Israel, and Prime Minister Netanyahu, say they will not permit Iran to cross. It is also a point of contention for Jewish and conservative Senators.
To rally the conservative side of the aisle, former George W Bush Secretary of State, Colin Powell, spoke with NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, January 13. It is an interesting recommendation, since Hagel was one of a few Republican critics of the strategy in Iraq which then-Secretary Powell promoted to the UN, and helped sell in Congress. Powell is persuaded that, despite comments and events that throw suspicion toward Hagel, "...he's had a very, very distinguished public service record that he can stand on."
One additional area of review will be Hagel's ties to Defense contractors. A recent review of his campaign contribution reports show very little of his campaign funds were raised through Defense PAC money. The largest was Eurpac, with a contribution of $18,000. Overall, the Defense industry seems to have only contributed a little over $ 90,000 of his total $ 11.35 million campaign fund, or less than 1 percent. So if sequestration does occur (an early possible crisis for the Defense Department), presumably Hagel would be able to slash his budget with a clear conscience and no lingering ties or commitments.
The process has begun. Hagel has the opportunity to define his past positions and statements, and see if he can maneuver the pitfalls of confirmation successfully.