Hard to conceive, but the battle between loyalists to President George H. W. Bush and loyalists to President George W. Bush has begun over the nomination of former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel to be Barack Obama’s Secretary of Defense in his second term in the Presidency.
The “old guard” Establishment Conservatives around the first President Bush, including Brent Scowcroft, James Baker, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and the former President himself, have no major problems with Hagel.
On the other hand, the neoconservatives, including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and conservative ideologues like Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Elliot Abrams, Frank Gaffney, John Bolton, and Charles Krauthammer all will find Hagel wanting in his foreign and defense policy views. It is not clear where President George W. Bush will come down, but in theory, he would agree with his key advisers and consultants mentioned above. Note that Powell and Rice are more linked to father Bush, and both were certainly involved in major battles with Cheney, Rumsfeld, and others during the second Bush Administration.
It will be an interesting battle, and it is likely that many Republican Senators will refuse to back Hagel, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, newly sworn in Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who has particularly gone on the attack already against Hagel.
A key person to watch will be Senator John McCain of Arizona, who still harbors resentment that Hagel backed Obama over him in the 2008 Presidential campaign, and vehemently disagrees with Hagel on issues involving Afghanistan and Iraq and Iran. McCain has been attacking Obama on every front lately, but will he concede that Obama has a right to the Defense Secretary he wants?
Stay tuned for the fireworks, particularly to wonder where Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky will take their stand–with the old line establishment figures, which include also many military and naval leaders; or with the neoconservatives who brought us into long, drawn out wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with very little success!