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Chuck Hagel for the defense

Monday, January 14, 2013 - Updated: 5:50 PM

In choosing former Sen. Chuck Hagel as secretary of Defense, has President Barack Obama made an "in your face" appointment, as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) complains? Perhaps.

Given criticism of Hagel by supporters of Israel and gay rights groups, his nomination was guaranteed to be controversial. So why did he do it?

After deciding not to nominate Susan Rice as secretary of state in the face of GOP opposition, the president may have been determined not to surrender to criticism a second time.

But fascinating as the politics around the nomination may be, now that Hagel has been nominated, the only question for the Senate to decide is whether he is qualified to serve.

In making that judgment, senators of both parties owe the president considerable -- but not complete -- deference.

We will reserve our final judgment about the Hagel nomination until after the conclusion of his Senate confirmation hearings.

But there's no question that he is a plausible candidate for secretary of defense, and the questions that have been raised about his past comments and positions so far don't strike us as disqualifying.

Members of the Senate may not like all of the answers they receive.

But in scrutinizing Hagel's nomination, senators aren't supposed to ask whether the nominee is the person they would appoint if they were president.

The proper question is whether the president's appointee is qualified for the position, ethically upright and free of extreme views.

If so, the president's choice should be confirmed -- "in your face" or not.

-- Los Angeles Times


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