“He’d be the first Vietnam veteran, the first enlisted soldier to serve as secretary of Defense. A guy with real serious foreign-policy chops and who quite frankly hasn’t been afraid to depart from his party when he thought they were wrong,” said Murphy. “Obviously, he took a very public stance against the Republican orthodoxy on the Iraq war back when really few Republicans were doing that.”
Hagel’s selection is likely to set off a tough confirmation battle, with many Republicans questioning their former colleague’s stance on Israel and Iran. Pro-Israel groups have spearheaded a campaign against his nomination, seizing on a remark he made while in office criticizing the “Jewish lobby” for intimidating lawmakers.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday called the selection an “in-your-face nomination” and warned that Hagel faced a tough path to confirmation.
Democrats have also expressed concern about Hagel’s past comments criticizing an openly gay ambassadorial nominee. Hagel apologized for those remarks.
Murphy on Monday said Hagel would not have been tapped if Obama did not trust him to implement the administration’s policies.
“I can tell he’s someone the president trusts,” said Murphy. “I understand some of the concerns that are being raised, but let’s be clear, President Obama is only picking someone who is going to support his position on Israel, which is a strong position in support of that special relationship. And someone who’s going to make sure his secretary of Defense implements strongly the nation’s policy on gays in the military.
“I know Chuck Hagel will do both of those things,” said Murphy.