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Obama agenda: Making his mark

“The differences in their nominating ceremony and the one last month for Senator John F. Kerry to be secretary of state were startling, reflecting the audible the administration had to call when it came to rolling out the team, as well as the bumpier confirmation hearings Hagel and Brennan are expected to face,” the Boston Globe’s Johnson writes. “The common denominator, though, was the clear deepening of White House control over the different elements of its national security apparatus. … The new nominees, though, could be well expected to harbor a special allegiance to this president and his team, given the circumstances of their respective nominations.”

“President Barack Obama’s pick of Chuck Hagel to run the Pentagon faces rough going in the Senate as a handful of Republicans quickly announced their opposition to a former GOP colleague, and several skeptical Democrats reserved judgment until the nominee explains his views on Israel and Iran,” AP writes.

USA Today: “In his first term, President Obama purposefully set out to build an administration that, while not quite Abraham Lincoln's Team of Rivals, insured that his most prominent advisers included some that were outside his tight inner circle.if his revamping of his national security team is any indication — Chuck Hagel for the Pentagon, John Brennan to lead the CIA and Sen. John Kerry for State —Obama is staying well within his comfort zone as he prepares for his second term, choosing to surround himself with a circle of friends he knows and trusts.

Politico makes this point about Vietnam and Obama’s appointments of Kerry and Hagel: “The conditions sure seem ripe for a here-we-go-again moment — one more occasion to relive, and re-argue, a war that ended four decades ago. Except this time one ingredient seems to be missing: a critical mass of people who share the Baby Boom generation’s preoccupation with this sullen chapter in American history. Half of the American population, 50.8 percent, was born after 1973, the year the Paris Peace Accords ended direct U.S. involvement in the losing effort to prevent a Communist victory in Vietnam, according to the Pew Research Center. The Vietnam obsessions of these people’s parents and grandparents revolve around events and arguments that are as far removed in time as the 1919 Treaty of Versailles was to young men fighting in Vietnam, or protesting back home, in the 1960s.”

Bloomberg’s Wilkinson: “President Barack Obama's anticipated nomination of Chuck Hagel as defense secretary shows how the polarization of Obama's second term might differ from that of his first. His first term was polarizing despite Obama's efforts. His second could be polarizing because of them.”

Or, he’s learned from his first term, has no politics to consider anymore and doesn’t feel like he owes his opposition anything. 

More: “As Peter Beinart argues convincingly, the Hagel nomination represents both an affront to Republicans, who have never honestly reckoned with the disasters of George W. Bush's foreign policy, and to Democrats, who have spent decades crafting foreign policy designed in part to avoid inciting aggression not from abroad, but from Republicans. Obama may or may not believe Hagel is the best person for the job. But he certainly is mindful of the challenge he has just laid down. Unless opponents can restrict the debate on Hagel to his views -- real or imagined -- on Israel, they risk litigating the disastrous policies that Hagel rejected and his most vociferous critics embraced.” 

Beth Reinhard sees Obama’s willingness to nominate Hagel and go hard after gun rights as a way to go after two of the strongest lobbies in Washington – AIPAC and the NRA – and settle some old scores with groups that haven’t exactly made his life easy: “Emboldened by reelection and a fiscal-cliff deal, President Obama is picking fights with two of the most powerful special interests in Washington: the pro-gun and pro-Israel lobbies. Both groups have enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress and wide deference from the White House for years. But Obama’s consideration of sweeping gun-control measures in the wake of the shooting deaths at a Connecticut elementary school, and his Defense secretary nomination of Chuck Hagel, whose support for Israel has been questioned, reflect the ambitions of a second-term president relishing—for as long as it lasts—an approval rating that exceeds 50 percent. If Obama perseveres on both fronts and avoids upcoming crises on spending cuts and the nation’s debt limit, his second term would be off to a rollicking start.”

Obama will meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai Friday at the White House.