A senior administration official told National Journal on Sunday that it was “fair” to say Obama is considering candidates other than Hagel for Defense secretary, in particular Michele Flournoy, who was under secretary of Defense for policy in Obama’s first term, and Ashton Carter, the current deputy Defense secretary. Only a week ago, Bloomberg News reported that Hagel was Obama’s top choice.
The White House’s revised characterization of Hagel’s standing came after what was, for the former Republican senator, a particularly discouraging series of comments on the Sunday-morning talk shows. Outgoing Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent, told CNN’s “State of the Union” that it would be “a very tough confirmation process,” while on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Hagel’s former fellow Republican in the Senate, Lindsey Graham, said Hagel’s would be “a challenging nomination.” Graham added: “I don’t think he’s going to get many Republican votes.”
While much of the criticism centers on questions of whether Hagel has been a strong enough supporter of Israel and tough enough on Iran–as well as past comments he made about gay people–he is also paying, in part, for his bluntness and bravery in advocating unpopular positions during his 12 years in the Senate.