Cabinet Moves

12.13.12

Rice Out? And Hagel to Defense?

I just this second saw a tweet that NBC is breaking that Susan Rice is withdrawing her name from consideration for Secretary of State.

Well, I think that's sad. But it means, obviousy, that the White House was getting the signals that she didn't have the votes. No Senate, at least no modern Senate, has ever voted down a secretary of state choice. That Republicans were prepared to do that is just disgusting. Over a few sentences spoken on some television shows?

Rice had other issues, it should be noted in fairness. My colleague Lloyd Grove covered several today. She has plenty of critics at Foggy Bottom. So there are some Democrats out there who are happy about this tonight, too.

I still think it would be way too risky of Obama to name John Kerry. I can think of little excuse for taking a Democrat out of the Senate and risking handing his seat back to a Republican (Scott Brown). So to me, that leaves it wide open.

And as for Rice's future? Bear in mind that the position of national security adviser does not require Senate confirmation. We've not heard the last of her, perhaps. And that's a position that can carry more insider influence than SecState.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg News says Chuck Hagel as the new defense secretary is "likely." Interesting and seemingly solid choice.

1. He's a Republican. Obama's last SecDef was a Democrat, Panetta, so I guess now he figures he needs to go back to a Republican. Not crazy.

2. He's an ornery cuss kind of Republican, extremely critical of Bush and Cheney back in the day.

3. He's been arguing that the military budget needs to be cut, which it does. Here's Dave Weigel for a little more on that.

4. AIPAC hates him. Here is a little flavor of the right wing critique of Hagel:

This is the second time that Hagel has been placed on Obama’s shortlist for the post. It is believed that he “would be a comfortable ideological fit for the president,” according to Foreign Policy magazine’s Josh Rogin.

The White House’s 2010 effort to enlist Hagel drew outrage from Jewish leaders critical of Hagel’s stand on Israel. His current status as the frontrunner is no less controversial.

“It would be a very unwise and disastrous choice for U.S. policies and activities regarding the Middle East,” said Morris Amitay, a former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

“You could probably consider him last in the class,” Amitay said when asked to rate Hagel’s views on Israel. “He’s probably the worst.”

Hagel’s efforts to open up direct negotiations with Iran and its terrorist proxy Hamas have placed him at odds with the pro-Israel community and the majority of Congress.

His legislative record reads like an anti-Israel rap sheet, sources said.

Some of that would be politically problematic at State, but at Defense, I don't see the problem. He won't be making diplomatic policy.

So it will be very interesting to see, in the event of a nomination, if Senate Republicans try to put up a fuss about a former colleague. One would that just can't fly. They would look too absurd. But I'm sure the AEI crowd is going to try to kick up some dust and see if it adheres.