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

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“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.

So why is Obama willing to have this fight, after watching one of his top prospects for secretary of State – UN Ambassador Susan Rice – remove her name from contention over what would have been a contentious confirmation battle, had she been nominated? (Her combative style and in particular misstatements about the Sept. 11 attack on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, riled Republicans.)

Administration officials say Obama had not necessarily settled on Ambassador Rice for State, but her withdrawal left the impression that the president’s choice had been preemptively defeated. So it may, in fact, be partly because of Rice that Obama is proceeding with Hagel. The president does not want to look weak again.

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