Saying it was Secretary Chuck Hagel’s decision to step down as Secretary of Defense, President Obama praised the Republican as an “exemplary defense secretary”, saying further, “Chuck Hagel has devoted himself to our national security and our men and women in uniform across six decades.”
“There was a time when an enlisted soldier might have been reluctant to ask that kind of question of the Secretary of Defense, but Chuck Hagel has been no ordinary Secretary of Defense,” President Obama said according to the White House pool report.
“He’s the first enlisted combat veteran to serve in that position,” the President said. “He understands our men and women in uniform like few others, because he’s stood where they stood. He’s been in the dirt. He’s been in the mud. And that has established a special bond. He sees himself in them. They see themselves in him. And their safety, their lives, have always been at the center of Chuck’s service.”
Obama noted that Chuck Hagel put aside party differences when he accepted the position and earlier when he traveled with then candidate Obama, “We come from different parties, but in accepting this position you sent a powerful message, especially to folks in this city, that when it comes to our national security and caring for our troops and their families, we are all Americans first.” This, the President said, is “kind of class and integrity that Chuck Hagel has always represented.”
“When I asked Chuck to serve as Secretary of Defense we were entering a significant period of transition, the drawdown in Afghanistan, the need to prepare our forces for [different] missions, and tough fiscal choices to keep our military strong and ready.”
“For nearly two years, Chuck has been an exemplary Defense Secretary, providing a steady hand as we modernize our strategy and budget to meet long term threats while still responding to immediate challenges like ISIL and Ebola.”
“Thanks to Chuck our military is on firmer footing, engaged in these missions and looking ahead to the future,” the President
Leader Pelosi also praised the departing decorated Vietnam War veteran in a statement, saying Hagel has “dedicated his life to serving the American people with dignity and courage.”
“Our nation’s first enlisted soldier to serve as Defense Secretary brought personal experiences to a changing and challenging national security landscape – and strived to shape it. He is a strong advocate for our veterans and military families affected by the scourge of sexual assault in the military, helped implement ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal, and put country before party by serving under both Republican and Democratic administrations.” Pelosi also thanked Secretary Hagel and his family for “their many years of service.”
Republicans were not pleased when President Obama nominated Chuck Hagel to be the Secretary of Defense. This was an odd position for a party that claims that President Obama never reaches across the aisle. The party that picked Sarah Palin as VP claimed Hagel lacked the right temperament for the job. As I pointed out then, the real issues was that Hagel is sane and rational:
The real issue Republicans have with Hagel is that not only has he been to war, unlike most in the chicken hawk party, but he is a two-time recipient of the Purple Heart and he is against a war-first strategy. Hagel warned us before invading Iraq that it is very easy to start a war, and not so easy to end one. Republicans were outraged at Hagel for suggesting such a fact.
Perhaps the problem is that Republicans of Hagel’s measure of courage and honor are sadly rare these days.
It’s unclear why Hagel stepped down at this point, it could signal a disagreement in policy or he could simply be ready to move on.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.