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Obama's 'in your face' cabinet picks: why he chose Chuck Hagel, John Brennan

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina on Sunday called the Hagel nod an “in your face nomination” of a contender who “has long severed his ties with the Republican Party.”

“I don’t know what his management experience is regarding the Pentagon – little, if any – so I think it’s an incredibly controversial choice,” added Senator Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which will preside over the nomination hearing.

While Senate colleagues like Graham acknowledge Hagel’s distinguished service in Vietnam, they cited criticism echoed in a number of quarters. 

These include concerns from gay rights advocates who point to Hagel’s 1998 description of a nominee to be President Clinton’s ambassador to Luxembourg as “aggressively gay,” a comment for which he has since apologized. 

Obama gave a subtle nod to the criticism, noting that the work of the new Defense secretary will include “continuing to ensure” that servicemen and women “can serve the country they love, no matter whom they love.” 

Pro-Israel groups have accused Hagel of being too soft on Iran and have bristled at his use of the term “Jewish lobby,” which Hagel accused of “intimidating a lot of people.”  

“Quite frankly, Chuck Hagel is out of the mainstream of thinking, I believe, on most issues regarding foreign policy,” Graham told CNN, adding that if he is confirmed, Hagel “would be the most antagonistic secretary of Defense towards the state of Israel in our nation’s history.” 

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