President Obama faces formidable challenges in preserving America’s national security. Many of them are actually outside the Capital Beltway, though some of the most intense fights are as much about budgets and politics as they are about enemy threats to U.S. safety and freedom.
Obama’s efforts to secure confirmation of former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., as secretary of defense, and John Brennan, to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency, run headlong into those domestic obstacles on Capitol Hill.
Hagel is drawing noisy opposition from his former Republican colleagues because he stood by candidate Obama in 2008 against partisan squawking about a foreign trip.
Hagel also was supportive of Democrat Bob Kerrey’s failed 2012 comeback run to represent Nebraska in the U.S. Senate.
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What the Republicans see, but do not articulate, is a trusted, experienced lawmaker who shares the president’s goal to pare back U.S. military spending and pursue a defense that looks to building alliances, with less reliance on an aggressive presence abroad.
A swift exit of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, and a paring back of military spending that has doubled in the past decade, are basic assignments for the Obama administration in its second term.
Republican opposition to Hagel echoes the party on budget cuts.
Lots of rhetorical passion and few, if any, details and specifics.
Suggestions that Hagel will not continue strong U.S. support for the safety of Israel, challenge Iran’s aspirations, or that he is somehow hostile to gays serving in the military, do not ring true.
The decorated, enlisted veteran of the Vietnam War does bring a real-world sense of the burdens that military service — and protracted wars — impose on men and women in uniform and their families.
Obama nominated Brennan, his deputy national-security adviser, and a 25-year veteran of the CIA, to lead America’s spy agency.
Brennan might face opposition over administration plans to return the CIA to its classic intelligence-gathering role.
Two solid candidates with serious credentials enter the arcane world of Senate procedures where nominations — and legislation — are stalled by rules that artificially inflate the prerogatives of the minority.
Give Obama his national-security team, and hold them accountable for results.