- As part of the pre-formal-nomination "mentioning" process, former Senator Chuck Hagel (right) a Republican from Nebraska, has emerged as a contender to succeed Leon Panetta as secretary of defense;
- William Kristol and various neocon allies launched a preemptive disqualifying strike by saying that Hagel was not simply "anti-Israel" but actually had a "Jewish problem";
- The Washington Post's lead editorialists weighed in with a complementary, extraordinarily strained, out-of-nowhere proclamation that Hagel would be "not the right choice" because he believed the Pentagon budget to be "bloated" (as of course it is), and because he is softer than Obama on Iran, etc. Andrew Sullivan went into the editorial here.
Each of us has had the opportunity to work with Senator Hagel at one time or another on the issues of the Middle East. He has invariably demonstrated strong support for Israel and for a two state solution and has been opposed to those who would undermine or threaten Israel's security.We can think of few more qualified, more non-partisan, more courageous, or better equipped to head the department of defense at this critical moment in strengthening America's role in the world. If he is nominated, we urge the speedy confirmation of Senator Hagel's appointment.Sincerely,Nicholas Burns, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Ambassador to NATO and GreeceRyan Crocker, former Ambassador to Iraq and AfghanistanEdward Djerejian, former Ambassador to Israel and SyriaWilliam Harrop, former Ambassador to IsraelDaniel Kurtzer, former Ambassador to Israel and EgyptSam Lewis, former Ambassador to IsraelWilliam H. Luers, former Ambassador to Venezuela and CzechoslovakiaThomas R. Pickering, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Ambassador to Israel and RussiaFrank G. Wisner, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Ambassador to Egypt and India
To be clear: I have never met Chuck Hagel, I have only general rather than detailed familiarity with his career, and I am not saying that he is necessarily the only good choice for this job. He hasn't managed large-scale enterprises; David Ignatius argues that he is not a "defense intellectual" and explains what the ramifications of that fact are. On the other hand, these nine ambassadors say they do know him and his career in some detail, and that on that basis they think he is very well qualified for the job.