Despite fierce opposition, Hagel still on tap to be named defense secretary
Usually, when a potential nominee receives this much opposition from varied groups, the president usually convinces him/her to withdraw their name from consideration.
But I sense a play by Obama to prove his "independence" from what he and other liberals refer to as the "Jewish lobby." Hence, the nomination of former Senator Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense appears to be on track and will probably drop next week.
With the "fiscal cliff" crisis behind him, President Obama is poised to name two new key players to his cabinet, with both announcements expected to come next week.
Obama will name the replacement for outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta as soon as Monday, sources told ABC News. Former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel is the likely nominee, they said.
Meanwhile, the president is also eyeing a replacement for outgoing Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the longest-serving member of Obama's first-term economic team and one-time lead negotiator for the administration in the "fiscal cliff" talks.
Current chief of staff Jack Lew is all but certain to get the nod for Treasury, according to people familiar with Obama's thinking.
A White House spokesman cautioned that the president has not yet made a final decision on either post, calling reports about Hagel and Lew "merely guessing."
Still, when Obama returns from his Hawaiian vacation on Sunday, he's expected to waste little time filling out his team for a second term.
Hagel will get plenty of opposition from both right and left. He is certainly no friend of Israel, as shown by several statements over the years. And he has recently been taken to task for making a homophobic remark that drew the ire and opposition of gay ex-Congressman Barney Frank.
But it is opposition from mainstream Jewish organizations that will make it very difficult for friends of Israel in the Senate to support him. Even Democrats who might be inclined to give the president who he wants in his cabinet, will pause and consider before voting for the controversial nominee.
Obama appears willing to start a fight for Hagel, which says a lot about how he sees our relationship with Israel as the next crucial months unfold.