Scott Shackford writes: This morning’s news cycle has temporarily shifted away from fretting about what might happen in Ferguson, Missouri, to the news that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is resigning after serving less than two years.
“One of the top choices to replace Hagel is Michéle Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense under Hagel’s predecessors. She’s also an administration insider…Rather than proposing a different course for the administration’s foreign policy, she appears to possibly be the person to entrench it for rest of Obama’s term.”
The New York Times got the news, which will apparently be announced formally in a statement this morning:
The officials described Mr. Obama’s decision to remove Mr. Hagel, 68, as a recognition that the threat from the Islamic State would require a different kind of skills than those that Mr. Hagel was brought on to employ. A Republican with military experience who was skeptical about the Iraq war, Mr. Hagel came in to manage the Afghanistan combat withdrawal and the shrinking Pentagon budget in the era of budget sequestration.
Taken as a whole, the original New York Times story paints a pretty damning picture of the White House’s national security policy setting. Mr. Hagel, so long as he was a loyal foot soldier for the President, was okay even if he was on the outside of the White House cool kidz team.
But the moment Hagel spoke up on ISIS, contradicting the White House, it was game over.
In other words, Chuck Hagel was not fired for incompetence. He was fired for telling the truth on ISIS — calling it an “imminent threat to every interest we have,” thereby forcing Barack Obama to deal with a threat he very much would like to ignore.
It’s only made more interesting by the New York Times’s decision to complete delete that bit explaining the motivation for his firing….(read more)
A very important vine from yesterday: https://t.co/hK3W3I21Dj
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) November 25, 2014
Scott Shackford: …But now “the next couple of years will demand a different kind of focus,” one administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. He insisted that Mr. Hagel was not fired, saying that he initiated discussions about his future two weeks ago with the president, and that the two men mutually agreed that it was time for him to leave.
But Mr. Hagel’s aides had maintained in recent weeks that he expected to serve the full four years as defense secretary. His removal appears to be an effort by the White House to show that it is sensitive to critics who have pointed to stumbles in the government’s early response to several national security issues, including the Ebola crisis and the threat posed by the Islamic State.
Well, that’s one way to put it, but later on in the story, reporter Helen Cooper notes Hagel’s struggles to fit in with a White House full of intense Obama campaign insiders and their need to control all messaging:
A respected former senator who struck a friendship with Mr. Obama when they were both critics of the Iraq war from positions on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Hagel has nonetheless had trouble penetrating the tight team of former campaign aides and advisers who form Mr. Obama’s closely knit set of loyalists. Senior administration officials have characterized him as quiet during Cabinet meetings; Mr. Hagel’s defenders said that he waited until he was alone with the president before sharing his views, the better to avoid leaks. Read the rest of this entry »