President Barack Obama is expected to announce, perhaps as early as Monday, that he is nominating former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel to be the secretary of Defense in his second term. But Hagel faces stiff opposition from some of his former colleagues on both sides of the political spectrum.
Conservative Republicans will find plenty of reasons to block Hagel's confirmation, chief among them a perception that he is weak on Iran and his vocal opposition to how President George W. Bush and his administration handled the war in Iraq. Among Hagel's notable quotables on the motive for the Iraq war is this claim, which will surely be resurrected by opponents to his nomination:
"People say we're not fighting for oil. Of course we are. They talk about America's national interest. What the hell do you think they're talking about? We're not there for figs."
As The Atlantic points out, Hagel is also facing intense scrutiny by a variety of groups including gay-rights and pro-Israel advocates.
Among other things the Republican has faced criticism for referring to pro-Israel groups in Washington, D.C., as "the Jewish lobby." Hagel, according to The Atlantic, once told a critic who had complained about the lawmaker not supporting Israel strongly enough that he wasn't "an Israeli senator. I'm a United States Senator. I support Israel. But my first interest is, I take an oath of office to the constitution of the United States. Not to a president, not to a party, not to Israel."
Hagel also offended gay-rights advocates when he suggested an openly gay candidate for U.S. ambassador would not be able to do his job effectively because he was, as Hagel put it, "aggressively gay."
Hagel embarked on a so-called apology tour in December, apparently in anticipation of his nomination and reaction from such groups. But it is clear that many gays have not accepted.
Former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, in a statement released in response to rumors of Hagel's nomination, said: "I cannot think of any other minority group in the U.S. today where such a negative statement and action made in 1998 would not be an obstacle to a major Presidential appointment."
The Emergency Committee for Israel, meantime, is airing television ads against Hagel that state, "For secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel is not a responsible option."
If Hagel is to make it to the confirmation stage, let alone be approved as the next secretary of Defense, he's got a lot of fences to mend. Perhaps too many.