Former Republican senator said to be Obama’s top pick to replace Panetta

Will Rahn Senior Editor
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Former Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel is President Barack Obama’s first choice to replace Leon Panetta as secretary of defense, Bloomberg News reports.

Hagel served 12 years in the Senate and was a sharp critic of President George W. Bush’s foreign policy. A former Army infantryman and Vietnam veteran, Hagel was particularly critical of the administration’s handling of the Iraq War.

Panetta has indicated he will not serve in Obama’s cabinet much longer, and Hagel could be nominated for the position as soon as January. Hagel reportedly visited Obama at the White House on Dec. 4 to discuss taking the post, and has been vetted by administration officials.

Although former and sitting senators are thought to have a leg-up during the confirmation process, Hagel is not without his detractors, and may face serious opposition from the body’s more hawkish members. The neoconservative publication Commentary recently called him “a vocal critic of Israel and soft on Iran.”

“If he’s nominated, it would basically mean the administration has come to terms with Iran getting the bomb,” Commentary’s Alana Goodman wrote earlier this month.

Other potential nominees for defense secretary, according to Bloomberg, include former Defense Undersecretary for Policy Michele Flournoy and Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.

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