President Barack Obama today named two men to fill key leadership roles in his administration - former senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) as Defense Secretary and career CIA officer John Brennan as CIA Director.
Obama made the announcements with both men present.
Hagel will replace Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who plans on retiring from the administration promptly after the start of Obama's second term on January 20th. He is a decorated Vietnam war veteran who would become the first enlisted-rank Secretary of Defense and the first to have been wounded in combat, noted Obama in the speech. His nomination has been riddled with criticism, including his 1998 characterization of a candidate for a U.S. ambassadorship as "openly, aggressively gay" and Republican skepticism of his conservative bona fides on Iran. He also infuriated pro-Israel activists by attacking the "Jewish lobby," which Hagel has since characterized as an attack on unconditional support for Israel.
On Sunday, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham attacked the nomination on Fox News Sunday as "an incredibly controversial," "in-your-face" choice. On the same day, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared on ABC's This Week to say Hagel "certainly has been outspoken on foreign policy and defense over the years" and that part of the confirmation process will be ensuring that his views "make sense."
"Not that I'm a pacifist, I'm a hard-edged realist, I understand the world as it is, but war is a terrible thing. There's no glory, only suffering," Hagel was quoted as writing in his 2006 biography.
Brennan takes the job from acting director Michael Morell, who has been coordinating the agency since the scandal-ridden resignation of Gen. David Petraeus late last year. Brennan was previously withdrawn from consideration for the top CIA job in 2008, after criticism arose of his approval of enhanced interrogation techniques (which many regard as torture) use under President Bush. Several critics have came out against his nomination, with Democracy Now! calling him "Obama's Cheney" and an "Assasination Czar."
Both men will have to be confirmed by the Senate. While Brennan is expected to glide through with relative ease, Hagel may face a brutal confirmation fight thanks to GOP opposition.