After vetting began five weeks ago, Politico reports that Barack Obama has picked former Republican senator and Vietnam vet Chuck Hagel to succeed current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at the Pentagon. A Democratic aide defended the nomination, telling Politico:
“Chuck Hagel is a decorated war hero who would be the first enlisted soldier and Vietnam veteran to go on to serve as Secretary of Defense. He had the courage to break with his party during the Iraq War, and would help bring the war in Afghanistan to an end while building the military we need for the future.
“He has been a champion for troops, veterans and military families through his service at the VA and USO, and his leadership on behalf of the post-9/11 G.I. Bill. The President knows him well, has traveled with him to Iraq and Afghanistan, trusts him, and believes he represents the proud tradition of a strong, bipartisan foreign policy in the United States.”
However, as Salon has noted before, Hagel's nomination is likely to face significant opposition, as well:
Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., says Hagel’s nomination would lead to “a very tough confirmation process.” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said: "Lots of Republicans are going to ask him hard questions and I don’t think he’s going to get many Republican votes.”
Obama is expected to make the announcement on Monday.