On Monday, after the inauguration, President Barack Obama officially nominated Chuck Hagel to his cabinet for the position of Secretary of Defense. He would be replacing Leon Panetta who is stepping down and heading to his winery in northern California.
Chuck Hagel is a former Republican Senator from Nebraska. Hagel was an enlisted Sergeant in the Army during the Vietnam War. He received two Purple Hearts, the Army Commendation Medal and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
Hagel is considered to be more restrained in his willingness to send troops in to harm’s way. This was demonstrated during the run-up to the Iraq War when he expressed concerns about going in while his own party was beating the drums of war. There was a time not long ago when the Republicans were the party of war restraint and the Democrats were the hawks. Now, the GOP is open about their war mongering while the Democrats pretend to be the party of peace but carry-on with the same policies on war and foreign policy in general as the neo-conservatives in the GOP. Obama has continued just about all of Bush’s policies and has stepped up the drone strikes and maintenance of a kill list that includes Americans.
The hope is that with Hagel, Obama can start to scale back on the wars and avoid moving hastily on Iran or other possible fronts. Hagel has also shown a willingness to scale back defense spending which is much needed in this time of excessive government spending. Back in November, conservative Republican Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn released a report called the "Department of Everything". The report showed in detail the amount of waste there is in defense spending. Much of the opposition coming from the GOP is over defense spending.
Many GOP Senators plan to ask Hagel some tough questions during his confirmation hearing that starts January 31st. Tough questions are good. Many others in the GOP Senate have already asserted they will vote against confirmation. But, the GOP should be careful. As former GOP Congressman and MSNBC’s Morning Joe’s host Joe Scarborough put it:
"I just wonder what's better for Democrats politically: if Barack Obama gets his Republican secretary of defense, or if Republicans, who after deep-sixing an African-American for secretary of state, now turn and savage one of their own".
In the end, I believe Hagel will be confirmed. We shall see if he really brings restraint to Obama’s war policies. Of the realistic possible nominees that Obama could have chosen, Hagel is the best and should be confirmed.