William Katz:  Urgent Agenda






THE HAGEL DEATH WATCH – AT 8:29 A.M. ET:  Urgent Agenda has a full-time reporter assigned to cover the large bus parked outside the White House, to see who's been thrown under there lately.  Our reporter tells us that, while Chuck Hagel hasn't arrived yet, a space is being cleared for him with some urgency.

No, it's not a done deal, but most Washington reports say that Hagel's star is fading quickly, given the fact that he's opposed by both Democrats and Republicans, which must have taken some doing on Chuck's part.  Hagel's defenders say that the charges against him – that he's soft on Iran, soft on America's enemies generally, anti-Israel, and in favor of devastating defense cuts – are exaggerated.  Well, how did they get "exaggerated"?  Apparently, Chuck doesn't handle himself very well.  The prom king he is not.

So else is there?  The Hill reports that the forces are choosing up sides. 

As former Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel's star continues to diminish in his bid to become the next Defense secretary, political pundits on both sides of the aisle are busily pushing their picks for the Pentagon's top job.

Former DOD policy chief Michèle Flournoy has emerged as the top pick among Democrats, while Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is being heavily touted by Republicans and conservatives as the best pick to succeed outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.


There are benefits on both sides for the Obama administration with either pick. Should the president go with Flournoy, she would be the first female nominee to head up the Pentagon.

A Flournoy nomination would also fall in line with recent administration picks such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Supreme Court justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.

But by selecting Carter, the White House would gain some major political capital inside the Pentagon, particularly at a time when tensions are expected to rise between DOD and the administration as DOD prepares for a looming drawdown in funding and personnel.

However, administration officials have remained mum on which way President Obama might go at the Pentagon as it is becoming increasingly clear that Hagel may not survive the confirmation process.

COMMENT:  If Hagel winds up under the bus, I think the heavy betting is with Flournoy.  First, Obama, having thrown Susan Rice under the bus, owes a make-up to women.  Also, Flournoy is the favorite of his own party, and he must keep the troops in line.  I'd be very surprised if he picks Carter.

December 28, 2012