Kerry, Powell and Hagel

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and nominated by President Obama to serve as secretary of State, stands foursquare in a bipartisan national-security tradition that has served America well for generations. Former Secretary of State, National Security Adviser, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and U.S. Army Gen. Colin Powell stands solidly in this bipartisan tradition. Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), nominated by President Obama to serve as secretary of Defense, whom Powell correctly called “superbly qualified,” and who is currently chairman of the Atlantic Council and co-chairman of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, similarly stands with this bipartisan security tradition.

It is important, and profound, that Hagel is strongly supported by so many former officials who served President Reagan and other Republican presidents and so many senior retired military officers, former U.S. ambassadors to Israel and leading diplomats who served presidents of both parties.

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Hagel is strongly supported by: Powell, whom Reagan chose to be national security adviser; Frank Carlucci, whom Reagan chose to be national security adviser and secretary of Defense; Lawrence Korb, who served Reagan as assistant secretary of Defense; Richard Burt, who served Reagan as assistant secretary of State; Thomas Pickering, who served Reagan in sensitive posts as U.S. ambassador to El Salvador and Israel; and Robert Gates, who served Reagan and presidents from both parties and has urged timely confirmation of Hagel.

Hagel is supported by: Gen. Brent Scowcroft, who served as national security adviser under President George H.W. Bush; Richard Haass, who held senior posts under Bush 41 and Bush 43 and is now president of the Council on Foreign Relations; former Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, who served under President Bush 43; and former Republican Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker (Kan.).

Hagel is supported by former U.S. Ambassadors to Israel Edward Djerejian, Sam Lewis, William Harrop and William Kurtzer, as well as Pickering.

Hagel is supported by senior retired military leaders including: Gen. Michael Hayden, who served as CIA director under President George W. Bush; Adm. William Fallon, former commander of U.S. Central Command; Gen. Anthony Zinni, former commander, U.S. Central Command; Adm. Robert Natter, former commander, U.S. Atlantic Fleet; Lt. Gen. Dan Christman, former superintendent, U.S. Military Academy at West Point; Gen. James Jones, former national security adviser; and Gen. Stanley McChrystal, former commander in Afghanistan.

At the core of the spirit of national-security bipartisanship is a powerful commitment to support active-duty troops, military families and veterans. From the war bond campaigns of the 1940s to the good works being done throughout the nation today, this spirit is the core of Americanism. Hagel has strong support in communities serving veterans and military families, whose causes he has championed for a lifetime alongside Gen. Powell, Sen. Kerry and countless others.

The prospect of a Secretary of State Kerry, Secretary of Defense Hagel and Gen. Eric Shinseki as secretary of Veterans Affairs would bring to the Cabinet extraordinary war experience, combat heroism and support for troops and military families that would inform all military, diplomatic and veterans-related decisions by the president.

Kerry possesses a depth of diplomatic and military experience and an ability to reach to friends across the aisles and contacts across the globe. He could become a secretary of State reminiscent of Gen. George Marshall, who served President Truman. I strongly agree with Powell that Hagel will be an outstanding secretary of Defense and have no doubt that Hagel’s combination of support for diplomacy, when possible, and willingness to use sanctions or force when necessary will be apparent during confirmation hearings.

The partial list of Republicans, career diplomats and nonpartisan military leaders that I emphasize here as Hagel supporters speaks volumes about the bipartisan security tradition that Colin Powell, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel represent. 

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.