The president's emerging second-term national-security team will likely include a longstanding cabal in place before Obama reached Washington.
In the summer of 2008, while the two of them were on a trip to Afghanistan, then-Senator Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican, gave a bit of advice to then-presidential candidate Barack Obama.
"I told Obama he should pick [Joe] Biden as his running mate," Hagel recalled in a 2010 interview. "I said, 'He understands governance better than anyone else. In particular, he understands Congress. He understands how it fits together like no one else you could get. He's got the political piece. He 's got the policy piece. There's nobody in his league.'"
On August 25 of that year, Obama did indeed name Biden as his vice-presidential nominee. The move surprised many people. But apparently not Hagel.
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Today, Hagel is reportedly President Obama's top choice to be defense secretary, while John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and another old Obama colleague from the Senate who has influenced the president's thinking on Afghanistan (as have Hagel and Biden), is expected to be named secretary of state, perhaps this week. Biden, meanwhile, has become one of the most powerful and influential vice presidents ever, even by his own testimony. "I literally get to be the last guy in the room with the president," Biden said in a speech in 2012. "That's our arrangement."