John Kerry, Chuck Hagel: Vietnam vets to lead US foreign and defense policies?
Sen. John Kerry is the leading contender to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. Former GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel could be Obama's next Defense Secretary.
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Obama bemoaned the relentless Republican criticism in accepting Rice's decision to step aside.Skip to next paragraph
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"While I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks, her decision demonstrates the strength of her character," the president said.
The White House said Rice would remain U.N. ambassador. She could become national security adviser should Tom Donilon move on to another position, though that is not expected imminently. The security adviser position would not require Senate confirmation.
Kerry, a senator for nearly three decades and the current Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, has won praise from his Senate colleagues and should be confirmed easily, if nominated. He has been Obama's envoy to hot spots such as Afghanistan and Pakistan, the administration's point man in 2010 on a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia and a stand-in for Republican Mitt Romney during Obama's debate preparation this year.
Hagel was a senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee during his years in the Senate. He and Obama became close while they served in the Senate and traveled overseas together. Hagel has irked some in the Republican Party with his complaints that the party has moved too far to the right and for his endorsements of Democrats.
"He's a combat vet who was wounded twice and understands that the decisions we make here are carried out by our young men and women" in the military, said Sen. Jack Reed, a member of the Armed Services Committee.
It would be highly unusual for Hagel's political moves to sink his nomination, even in bitterly divided Washington.
Kerry is no stranger to the politicization of national security; he was the target of unsubstantiated claims by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth over his Vietnam record. He acknowledged that experience in his statement Thursday praising Rice.
"As someone who has weathered my share of political attacks and understands on a personal level just how difficult politics can be, I've felt for her throughout these last difficult weeks, but I also know that she will continue to serve with great passion and distinction," he said in a statement.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.