President Obama is expected to announce two national security nominations this morning -- Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary and John Brennan to head the CIA.
The AP: “Hagel, even before being nominated, has faced tough criticism from congressional Republicans who say the former GOP senator is anti-Israel and soft on Iran. And Brennan, a 25-year CIA veteran, withdrew from consideration for the spy agency’s top job in 2008 amid questions about his connection to enhanced interrogation techniques during the George W. Bush administration.”
Andrea Mitchell: “Hagel is a contrarian Republican moderate and decorated Vietnam combat veteran who is likely to support a more rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.” On Brennan: He “worked at the CIA for 25 years, including a stint as station chief in Saudi Arabia. He also served as chief of staff to then CIA Director George Tenet from 1999 to 2001, when he was named the agency's deputy executive director. … As Brennan has been involved in major national security issues since 9/11, he should be able ‘to hit the ground running’ at the CIA, one official told NBC News.”
The Washington Post: “Hagel’s successful nomination would add a well-known Republican to the president’s second-term Cabinet at a time when he is looking to better bridge the partisan divide, particularly after a bitter election campaign. But the expected nomination has drawn sharp criticism in recent weeks, particularly from Republicans, who have questioned Hagel’s commitment to Israel’s security. … In an appearance Sunday on CNN’s ‘State of the Union,’ Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) called Hagel’s selection an ‘in-your-face nomination.’”
Haaretz: “The former Republican senator from Nebraska, described by conservative Republicans and Jewish critics as ‘antagonistic’ towards Israel and even as a ‘borderline anti-Semite’ wrote in his 2008 book America; Our Next Chapter that any US president is required ‘to engage actively in the dangerous and politically risky business of peacemaking. We know that a peace settlement will not happen if the parties are left to their own devices.’ However, Hagel added, ‘there is one important given that is not negotiable: a comprehensive solution should not include any compromise regarding Israel’s Jewish identity.’”
Several groups are opposing Hagel for his views on Israel, but Haaretz notes, “Hagel’s positions on Arab-Israeli peacemaking, however, are shared by a substantial number of Israelis in the center and left of Israel’s political map: he endorses the ‘Clinton Parameters’ enunciated by former President Bill Clinton following the 2000 Camp David summit, saying that these ‘represent the most comprehensive, detailed and practical plan to date for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement and a two-state solution.’”
And despite the controversy now, former Sen. Max Cleland, himself a wounded veteran, tells Talking Points Memo: “All this other stuff has been bull---- up ‘til now. When the real decision is made, when the president makes the decision … the Senate plays its role. … I don’t see the United States Senate rejecting Chuck Hagel. Under any circumstance that we can foresee at this point. … Look Chuck Hagel in the eye and vote up or down. Against a combat-wounded veteran, against a former member of the United States Senate, against a foreign relations committee member, against a sitting member of the military intelligence advisory committee to the Department of Defense. Look him in the eye and vote against him for Secretary of Defense. Are you kidding me?”
“The White House is weighing a far broader and more comprehensive approach to curbing the nation’s gun violence than simply reinstating an expired ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition, according to multiple people involved in the administration’s discussions,” the Washington Post reports. “A working group led by Vice President Biden is seriously considering measures backed by key law enforcement leaders that would require universal background checks for firearm buyers, track the movement and sale of weapons through a national database, strengthen mental health checks, and stiffen penalties for carrying guns near schools or giving them to minors, the sources said. To sell such changes, the White House is developing strategies to work around the National Rifle Association that one source said could include rallying support from Wal-Mart and other gun retailers for measures that would benefit their businesses. White House aides have also been in regular contact with advisers to New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg….”
AP: “Struggling for the upper hand in the next round of debt talks, Republicans and Democrats this weekend drew lines in the sand they said they'd never cross when it comes to the U.S. debt limit. … Republicans say they are willing to raise the debt ceiling but insist any increase must be paired with significant savings from Medicare, Medicaid and other government benefit programs. President Barack Obama has said he’s willing to consider spending cuts separately but won’t bargain over the government’s borrowing authority.”
But: “There are early signs of division within the Republican Party over how to approach the upcoming debate over raising the federal debt ceiling,” the Washington Post reported Saturday. “House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) likewise insisted that Republicans hold the line, telling his members they must demand that every dollar they raise the debt limit be paired with commensurate spending cuts. But other Republicans counseled caution, warning that pressure from the business community and the public to raise the $16.4 trillion federal borrowing limit renders untenable any threats not to do so and will weaken the GOP’s hand if their stance is perceived to be a bluff.”
Hillary Clinton’s slated to be back at work today.
“President Obama’s campaign has agreed to pay a $375,000 fine to the Federal Election Commission, among the largest penalties in the agency’s history,” the Washington Post reported Friday. “The fine was imposed after an audit of the campaign’s books showed that it failed to report the identities of donors who gave large checks in the weeks before the 2008 election, according to a copy of the agreement between the FEC and the president’s campaign.”