Chicago Tribune: Find another leader for Pentagon

Politics,Beltway Confidential,Michal Conger

The Chicago Tribune came down firmly against Chuck Hagel in an editorial published this morning, advising the Pentagon it’s time to find another candidate for secretary of defense.

The Tribune warns Hagel’s inability to answer questions during his Senate confirmation hearing reveals his views on Iran and national security may not be as moderate as President Obama insists they are:

One squirm-in-your-chair example: Hagel declared the Obama administration’s policy on Iran’s nuclear weapons program was “containment,” meaning the U.S. could tolerate a nuclear-armed Tehran. An aide handed Hagel a slip of paper to remind him that the administration’s position is that Iran will not be allowed to terrorize the world with a nuclear weapon.

Slap to forehead.

Was that a simple Hagelian slip of memory? Or a statement of genuine belief? Hagel has suggested the world could tolerate a nuclear Iran and rely on deterrence, the threat of retaliation, to keep Iran from using its weapons.

This despite the Pentagon’s “myth-busting” campaign to dispel worries about its defense pick. This lobbying effort included a paper listing “myths” about Hagel, including “Senator Hagel is not supportive of Israel” and “Senator Hagel is soft on Iran.”

The Tribune is buying none of it:

The nation needs a defense secretary who is consistent, who is well-versed in defense planning and policy, and who will give frank and independent advice to the president about when and when not to project U.S. power. Hagel inspires no confidence on any of those counts.

A defense secretary who will not need to be reminded that the president has vowed to thwart Iran’s drive to develop nuclear weapons…

Chuck Hagel served this country honorably in Vietnam. But his troubling position on key defense issues and his disastrous performance at his hearing last week should prompt the Senate to turn down the nomination.

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