Robert Gates was the Republican holdover and bureaucratic ninja. Leon Panetta deserved the secretary of defense post after a much-ballyhooed stint at the CIA. But Chuck Hagel was supposed to — finally — be Barack Obama’s man at the Pentagon.
Hagel either volunteered to resign as US defense secretary or was, um, asked to leave by Obama. Either way, the move was rife with ironies.
A Dilemma for Hillary? The 2016 Democratic frontrunner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, would be the first female president. Anyone who’s talked to a Clinton World insider knows she wouldn’t mind naming the first female defense secretary.
Obama might get there first. Former Pentagon policy chief Michele Flournoy is atop every SecDef shortlist. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, she is nominated and confirmed. Let’s also assume Clinton becomes the 45th president.
With Flournoy busy during the campaign, she wouldn’t be free to advise candidate Clinton, who might want, as they say in Washington, “her own” defense secretary.
The proponent of shattering “glass ceilings” might, come early 2017, be the first president to fire — or, in Washington-speak: opt against retaining — a female defense secretary.
Too Obama for Obama. The president ran in 2008 as the candidate who would untangle America’s messy post-9/11 conflicts. Obama vowed to get the United States out of Iraq and correct course in the so-called good war, Afghanistan.
He favored trimming the annual military budget, and was skeptical of both the effectiveness and ramifications of the use of American military force abroad.
That pretty much sums up former Sen. Hagel’s to a tee. Hagel was Obama. And Obama was Hagel.
Until, that is, the Islamic State happened. Hagel, according to a now infamous leaked memo, was skeptical of Obama’s plans. The boss was heading away from the Obama-Hagel philosophy.
Curious Defenders. Among the first that appeared Monday to leap to Hagel’s defense and praise his time as SecDef were the very folks who so opposed his nomination: Senate Republicans.
Chief among them was Hagel’s old friend-turned-sharpest critic (and, apparently, friend again), Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
In a Monday statement, McCain revealed his old pal’s many frustrations with the Obama White House. And in a radio interview, the man who in early 2013 so forcefully questioned Hagel’s qualifications dropped this bombshell: “Believe me, [Hagel] was up to the job.”
Isn’t it all ironic? Don’t ya think?
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