In the last few days, much has been said, both pro and con, about “Chuck” Hagel. The retired senator from Nebraska is President Obama’s choice for Secretary of Defense.
Mr. Hagel’s combat experience as an enlisted infantryman in Vietnam, his service in the Senate, his experience as a successful CEO, and his service in several Presidential appointments, including Deputy Secretary of the VA and advisor to the President in Intelligence and Foreign Affairs, more than qualifies him for the position. He knows from personal experience what war and combat are about, and he is concerned about the soldiers who sacrifice their young lives day in and day out in service to our country, and about the families they leave behind to do so.
Former Secretary of State, retired Army General Colin Powell said on a Sunday morning talk show that Mr. Hagel is “superbly qualified.” Mr. Hagel’s former senate colleagues and other Washington associates stated similar views in various media.
I met Senator Hagel years ago, in his first term as U.S. Senator from Nebraska, on a Midwest Express flight from Omaha to Washington, D.C. The young senator boarded the plane, walked up and down the aisle meeting people, then stood at the head of the aisle and entertained the passengers with stories about politicians and life in Washington, D.C. He continued his stories until the ‘fasten seat belts” sign illuminated. I found him to be courteous, amiable, energetic, compassionate, and smart. I followed his senatorial career after that, and I admire the way he conducted himself. Senator Hagel was not afraid to buck the party and speak his mind. He often took controversial positions on issues, and exhibited common sense and good judgment.
Following my son’s survival just a hundred feet or so from the plane’s crash in the 911 attack on the Pentagon, the Department of the Army honored him with the highest award given to a civilian by the Army for his bravery, unselfish action, and disregard for his own safety during his attempts to rescue others from the disastrous scene. Senator Hagel took the trouble to call my wife and me to praise our son, and offered us any service his office might be able to provide. I felt he was very sincere in his praise and his offer.
Rest assured that Mr. Hagel’s adversaries, as well as his supporters will thoroughly grill him at the Senate confirmation hearings, and he will be in a position to clear up any misunderstanding that may exist on his former statements on the Pentagon budget, Isreal, Iran, and homosexuality. He will not hesitate to state his current positions clearly and truthfully.
Secretary Hagel will advise the President with intelligence and wisdom. He will not be a “yes man”, but will still carry out the President’s policies with professionalism and diplomacy. President Obama acted thoughtfully and statesmanlike in the appointment of Mr. Hagel as his choice for Secretary of Defense, and the Senate should confirm his appointment with as little delay as possible.