On the heels of Attorney General Eric Holder tendering his resignation, President Obama announced that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is resigning. The timing of these resignations are ominous signs for the Obama administration as it recovers from the midterm shellacking and the president’s executive action on immigration reform.
“If there’s one thing I know about Chuck, it’s that he does not make this or any other decision lightly,” Obama said, after commending Hagel and hoping to quell rumors that the secretary was being forced out. According to officials familiar with the situation, the planned departure was a “mutual decision.”
But it’s difficult to ignore the rather blunt memo Hagel sent to Susan Rice, the nation- al security advisor a couple of months ago, expressing his disappointment with the administration’s policy on Syria. He recommended a firmer approach in dealing with Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Hagel, like Holder, has promised to stay on the job until a successor is nominated and con- firmed. “It’s been the greatest privilege of my life to lead, and most importantly to serve,” he said in said in a prepared statement.
Back in October, Hagel, 68, began discuss- ing the possibility of leaving the post after ar-
riving there in February 2013 to replace Leon Panetta, becoming the only Republican on the Obama team.
He had the distinction also of being the first enlisted combat veteran to serve as secretary of defense, and leaves behind a full agenda of inter- national turmoil, particularly in the Middle East.
There is no clear indication of who will replace Hagel, though several names have been bandied about, including former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy; Sen. Jack Reed, a democrat from Rhode Island and a defense specialist and a former officer with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division; and Ashton B. Carter, a former deputy secretary of defense.
It would appear that Reed, given that his résumé closely resembles Hagel, would be the best choice, and it would bolster his circle of Democrats.
With the GOP amassing resistance to the president’s announcement to take action on immigration reform, Hagel’s stepping down only gives the administration another issue to resolve.
The horse trading on immigration reform that was expected on getting Loretta Lynch, the president’s nominee to replace Holder, may also be in the works for whomever Obama chooses to replace Hagel, and it wasn’t easy two years ago. A GOP-controlled Congress will make all of the president’s plans daunting next year, especially if they reverse the filibuster rule by democrats to block the president’s nominees.