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.
“Chuck represents the bipartisan tradition that we need more of in Washington,” Obama said. “For his independence and commitment to consensus, he's earned the respect of national security and military leaders, Republicans and Democrats, including me.”
Some Senate Democrats have endorsed Hagel, and at least three Republican senators have come out against him, while others of both parties have expressed skepticism. Democrats have a 55-45 majority in the Senate, but Republicans could decide to filibuster – which would require 60 votes to overcome. And there’s no guarantee that all the Democrats vote with the president.