WASHINGTON – Chuck Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, is reportedly being considered for a top national security position in the Obama administration, a move that could affect Senator John Kerry’s chances for a similar post.
Hagel may be in contention for either secretary of state or secretary of defense, according to an online report by Foreign Policy magazine’s Josh Rogin, who cited multiple anonymous sources who were familiar with the vetting process.
The report throws another name into the mix of people who could take a high-profile role as President Obama restocks his Cabinet at the start of his second four-year term. Hagel, who is a moderate on foreign policy and currently co-chairs Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board, would provide Obama with a Republican in the cabinet.
One source familiar with the process told the Globe that Hagel was being considered for secretary of defense or to head the Central Intelligence Agency, and likely not for secretary of state, the position Kerry is most carefully eyeing.
UN Ambassador Susan Rice is widely believed to be the front-runner within the White House to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But Rice has also been under fire for comments she made in the days after the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the US mission in Libya. Her personal investments – in companies that do business with Iran, and in Canadian oil companies that would benefit from the Keystone pipeline – have also come under close scrutiny in recent days.
Kerry has widespread support among his colleagues in the Senate, and would make for a much smoother confirmation process if he were nominated.
But another consideration for the White House – and a potential motivation for Senate Republicans to oppose Rice and favor Kerry -- is the political dominos that would fall if Kerry is appointed. It would create an open seat in Massachusetts, which Senator Scott Brown, the Republican who just lost his seat to Elizabeth Warren, could run for in a special election.
A source close to President Obama said that he wanted to find a way for Kerry to be in his cabinet, but it is unclear in what capacity he would serve.
Kerry’s name has also been floated for secretary of defense, but those who know Kerry and have followed his career closely say they can’t see him taking such a position. The only post they could see Kerry leaving for is secretary of state, and otherwise he would probably continue in his current role.