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Chuck Hagel: why Obama is using political capital on Pentagon pick (+video)

President Obama just made it by one 'fiscal cliff,' with more to come. But he has shown he won't shy away from a fight in nominating former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel to run the Pentagon.

Obama nominates Hagel for Secretary of Defense
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At first blush, former Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska seems an odd pick for secretary of Defense.

He is a Republican, a point that frustrates Democrats who would rather see one of their own in this key Cabinet slot. But, to many Republicans, he’s a RINO – a Republican in Name Only – owing in part to his opposition to the Iraq war and to his general wariness toward foreign entanglements.

Mr. Hagel has also irritated Democrats with past anti-gay comments (for which he has since apologized). And he has riled members of both parties with his criticism of pro-Israel groups and his stance toward Iran, including opposition to some sanctions.

In a way, Mr. Hagel is a man without a party. Many Washington analysts predict a tough confirmation fight in the Senate.

But to President Obama, who announced Hagel’s selection Monday, he is someone worth fighting for.  

“Chuck Hagel is the leader that our troops deserve,” Mr. Obama said. “He is an American patriot.”

Hagel would be the first enlisted man, and the first Vietnam veteran, to head the Pentagon. He “bears the scars and the shrapnel” from his military service, Obama noted. The president takes the “man without a party” argument and turns it on its head, returning to his first-term promise to rise above party politics.

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