Cruising for a bruising?


Mark Mardell takes a closer look at President Obama's choices

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The president has set himself up for another bruising fight with Congress.

He is already going to clash with lawmakers over the debt ceiling and spending. He has signalled he won't dodge a confrontation over guns and immigration. Now, his choice of two new cabinet members will mean a couple of fractious confirmation hearings.

The man he wants as defence secretary, Chuck Hagel, faces a real risk of being given the thumbs down and will certainly get a rough ride.

A decorated Vietnam veteran, he has an aversion to war and a view of Israel that falls short of what many Republicans demand.

Not that Mr Obama's pick for CIA director, John Brennan, will be uncontroversial.

He has been the president's main man on national security since 2008 and is a CIA veteran of 25 years so no-one doubts he knows his way around.

But liberals say he was too close to George W Bush's administration - particularly the faulty intelligence that led to the Iraq war and the torture of terrorist suspects.

But any trouble he has will be minor compared to Mr Hagel.

The former Republican senator is a renegade to many in his own party. He broke with them over the Iraq war. He has been accused of anti-Semitism for saying that: "the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here, [Congress]. I'm a United States senator. I'm not an Israeli senator."

He has been reluctant about sanctions on Iran and labelling Hamas a terrorist group. Opponents say he is "anti-Israel".

Supporters say he has not anti-Israel, he just does not slavishly back the current right-wing government's policies.

If that wasn't enough, he is in trouble from the other side for anti-gay comments, for which he has apologised.

Perhaps more significant than all of this, he would be a very reluctant war leader, on record as saying, in 2006, that taking military action against Iran "is not a viable, feasible, responsible option".

In 2002, talking about Iraq, he said: "Many of those who want to rush the country into war and think it would be so quick and easy don't know anything about war. They come at it from an intellectual perspective versus having sat in jungles or foxholes and watched their friends get their heads blown off. I try to speak for those ghosts of the past a little bit".

There is a lot for antagonistic senators to chew on, in an atmosphere where some are determined to block the president whenever they can.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

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  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    "supporters include a large number of irrational anti-Israel whackos"

    not as irrational as believing the "messiah" will return when Israel becomes world leader, ww3 starts in the mid east and trying to implement zionist sharia law in the mid east and in USA. now thats irrational!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Hagel will open the door to US estrangement from Israel.

    The US does not support Israel for base, selfish reasons - there is more money, oil & corrupt influence to be had by cuddling up with the Saudis, mullahs & petty emirs in the Gulf.

    No, the US supports Israel for moral reasons, & Hagel seems unwilling to continue this US moral courage. Dark days loom for the US if he is nominated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Hagel and Brennan look like the best choices for these positions.

  • Comment number 40.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    I trust Obama when he says that he has Israel's back. But his supporters include a large number of irrational anti-Israel whackos - look at enties #34 and #26 for examples of those who believe in a Jewish-Masonic-capitalist conspiracy for world domination.

    With so many goons & loons among Obama's supporters, let's hope he keeps a clear head & doesn't over-react to inevitable Rep push-back.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Since when are US politcians and government appointees required to take an oath of allegiance to Israel? To quote Hagel from the Chicago Tribune "The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here," but,"I'm a United States senator. I'm not an Israeli senator." Read the book 'They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel's Lobby' by former Illinois congressman Paul Findley.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    The opinions of the GOP members of the House will be divided over anything
    The Filibuster rules in the Senate and "Filling the Tree" is a big part of the inability of Congress Passing any legislation or confirming appointments during the past two years, both parties have used the rules and both parties MUST change the ability of holding up legislation by manipulating the filibuster while absent

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    "he would be a very reluctant war leader, on record as saying, in 2006, that taking military action against Iran "is not a viable, feasible, responsible option"."

    A Sec of Defense afraid of war, reluctant to fight.That is not what America is about.The USA was ready to destroy the entire Sino-Soviet bloc from the Danube River to the Pacific Ocean.Hagel's attitude would have lost the cold war

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    To deny the fact that the US partiality towards Israel when it comes Israeli-Palestinians issue has nothing to do with why the US is hated and continue to be a target of terrorism by the Arab/Muslim world, is to bury ones head in the sand. Israel always ignore US pleas to cease building settlement, and to reach accord with the Palestinians. Yet, Israel want US to go to war with Iran for Israel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Israel illegally stockpiled nuclear arsenal and wants to war with Iran
    UK and US put them in Middle East to fight against everyone else
    They used Q8 to get foothold in region and have been making money from Wars and selling weapons there spanning 22 years, Cheney is rich while the common man is poor or dead fighting their Wars (for Oil). US is bankrupt morally, financially and spiritually, mad too

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    #16.Philip Leone
    "Why is any discourse about Israel and the "Jewish Lobby" always labelled as hateful?"

    Because the last time a powerful politician spoke to us of the "Jewish lobby" and peddled conspiracy theories (look at entry #26 to this forum for an example!) it ended in genocide and mass murder. Reason enough to resist hate and say "never again".

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Sen. Hagel was tapped to run Defense, not State, so his foreign policy views are irrelevant. The real issue is does he have the necessary management skills and the respect of the of the military establishment? Republicans will have a tough time arguing he fails on those points so their objections take on the appearance of petulant partisanship, no doubt to Obama's satisfaction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    What a dumb choice, a Secretary of Defense who tells Iran develop nuclear weapons, a pre-emptive US military response is off the table.How will Obama keep his committment not just to Israel but to America Iran won't get nuclear weapons?

    Israel already feels isolated, threatened, unsure of USA.This appointment virtually guarantees thermonuclear war in the Mideast. Israel can rely only on itself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    It's amazing that Nagel is pilloried so for stating the obvious - the Israeli lobby does frighten people and they weild a disproportionate power. This is NOT ant-semtism, just a stattement of fact. Besides, the Palestians are also Semites and are not all terrorits as Israel suggests. The only way to arrive at peace is by compromise on both sides.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    It would be a shame if the republicans derail Hagel's nomination to be defense secretary because he puts America, not Israel first. A Vietnam veteran, he does not take going to war casually. Unlike many republicans who have never seen battlefield except in the movies or on tv. Telling Israel the truth is often wrongly seen as being anti-Semitic. True friends must always be honest with each other.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Bear in mind Isreal is on the verge of electing the most far-right party in its history. They have gone on record to state that they intend to relinquish sixty percent of Palestinian settlements in Gaza and the West Bank. The US needs a firm and just Secretary of State and Defense Secretary more than ever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Brilliant News!! : )
    It is looong past high time that AIPAC got reined in by US Representatives

    NEVER FORGET _ the Butcher of Sabra and Shatila _ Ariel Sharon was quoted saying to Shimon Peres, October 3, 2001 "We, the Jewish people, control America, and the Americans know it.”

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    "Hoping to "wipe Israel off the map"?"
    Israel was drawn on the map by UK and USA
    Israel was supposed to treat indigenous people fairly and equally
    An eraser to rub out UK, US boundaries would wipe them off the map
    Foreign Land Rights have always been manipulated in Laws by Masons Brotherhood Lodges and Secret Societies in History

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Hagel is at best an interesting choice. However, this will demonstrate all that is wrong with Congress.

    G_d help you if you break ranks with your party and say what you think is right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    To Power meerkat/14: I used the words 'balanced US attitude' in my earlier post - whether 'balanced' is applicable to the current Iranian government is, of course, a separate discussion. In the meantime, perhaps I should add, moderators willing, that neither does appear to apply to your comment 14.


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