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POLITICS: White House

Obama nominates Chuck Hagel, John Brennan for national security team

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Politics,White House,Brian Hughes,The Pentagon,Barack Obama,National Security,Chuck Hagel

President Obama on Monday nominated former Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel to be his next defense secretary and counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, rolling out a national security team that faces stiff resistance on Capitol Hill.

Obama, surrounded by his next potential Cabinet members, called on the Senate to "promptly" confirm the duo. But behind the scenes, the White House is bracing for a fight, particularly over Hagel, a moderate Republican who has detractors on both sides of the aisle.

"Chuck Hagel is the leader that our troops deserve," Obama said from the East Room. "He is an American patriot. He enlisted in our Army, volunteered for Vietnam, and first as a private, then as a sergeant, he served with honor alongside his own brother."

Yet, GOP critics say that Hagel is soft on Iran and hostile towards Israel, noting Hagel's past dismissal of the "Jewish lobby" in Washington. Hagel also faces concerns on the left for once calling a nominee for an ambassadorship "openly, aggressively gay."

Though he has no vote on Hagel, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., echoed the concerns that could derail Hagel's bid to lead the Pentagon.

"Sen. Hagel's incendiary views of Israel are only the tip of the iceberg," Cantor said. "On Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran and defense spending, Hagel's reported views call into question his judgment about the most important matters facing our national security.

With Brennan, Obama tapped a 25-year CIA veteran who spearheaded the administration's counterterrorism efforts in recent years. However, some progressives have concerns about Brennan's ties to the "enhanced interrogation" techniques approved by former President George W. Bush -- and Brennan's role in the heightened use of armed military drones during Obama's first term.

Obama is looking for less drama at the CIA after the current leader, Gen. David Petraeus, resigned over an extramarital affair.

bhughes@washingtonexaminer.com

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Brian Hughes

White House Correspondent
The Washington Examiner