Situation Report

Hagel: always pleased, never satisfied; Brennan to CIA; Street cred: Hagel’s injuries in Vietnam; Doug Wilson on Sec-Def nom; McChrystal on trust, on ‘Today,’ and more.

Brennan to CIA. Obama is reported to have passed over a well-regarded No. 2 at CIA in tapping John Brennan, the White House’s counterterrorism adviser and a 25-year veteran of the agency, to become the head of CIA, report a number of news outlets. Obama is expected to nom him today. Many thought and hoped ...

Brennan to CIA. Obama is reported to have passed over a well-regarded No. 2 at CIA in tapping John Brennan, the White House’s counterterrorism adviser and a 25-year veteran of the agency, to become the head of CIA, report a number of news outlets. Obama is expected to nom him today. Many thought and hoped that Obama would pick Mike Morell, now the deputy at CIA, to help refocus the agency on its more conventional mission of intelligence collection and analysis, as opposed to drone strikes and other paramilitary operations that Brennan has advocated, at least in the past.

Read FP’s Micah Zenko on "The Seven Deadly Sins of John Brennan" and "The Lethal Bureaucrat," also by Zenko.

Who is John Brennan?

Deadly Sins:

But the bigger nomination from Obama today will be Chuck Hagel as secretary of Defense, a choice Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said yesterday on CNN was an "in-your-face" pick, but one that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on ABC will "receive a fair hearing." Despite the promise of a big fight over the Hagel nomination, in the end, he may well be confirmed by the Senate. His stance on the Iraq war may have angered many Republicans, but it’s hard to see Republicans calling him out on that point now. And his perhaps more moderate stance on Israel, which seems to square with Obama’s own, may create fireworks but not doom him. Either way, it will be more theater on the Hill. For now, though, we’re interested in what kind of a manager he is thought to be.

"Always pleased, never satisfied." When Chuck Hagel ran the USO, he was an amiable but demanding leader, we’re told. Charlyne Berens, who wrote a book about Hagel, told Situation Report over the weekend that she had many interviews with Hagel and people he interacted with. She spoke with one woman at the USO: "She said he was always pleased, but never satisfied," Berens recalled. "He’s positive, encourages people, and he always thinks that more can be done." Berens’ impression from her research for her 2006 book, "Chuck Hagel: Moving Forward," written as he considered a presidential run, was that he was respectful of people and reasonably mild-mannered when it came to managing them. "I think it would be unusual for him to lose his temper, and be demanding and difficult," said Berens, a professor and associate dean at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. "But I think he expects a lot and wants people to give him everything they’ve got." 

On being a Nebraskan: "There is a directness and a sense of sincerity as opposed to strategic answers," Berens said. 

Welcome to Monday’s edition of Situation Report, where we know from Berens that Hagel used to get teased for subscribing to Time magazine in junior high so he could learn about world affairs. He’s also a huge Teddy Roosevelt fan, we’re told. Follow me @glubold. Or hit me anytime at And sign up for Situation Report here: or just send me an e-mail and I’ll put you on the list. And if you have a report, piece of news, or tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease.

When all is said and done, it was likely Hagel’s experience in Vietnam that really helped to persuade Obama to pick him to lead the Pentagon, giving him the credibility to look at his generals in the eye and whose views on war are tempered with real battlefield experiences. In her book, Berens describes the two times Hagel was injured, alongside his brother Tom, who served in the same unit: "…danger came in many forms in Vietnam. In March of 1968, the Hagel brothers were on an ambush patrol northeast of Saigon. They had been walking at the front of the column until their commander rotated them to the back. Only moments later, the soldiers who had taken their place at the front tripped a booby trap. Mines full of shrapnel, planted in the trees, exploded all around them. The men walking in front were killed. Tom thought at first that he had simply been knocked down by the force of the explosion, and when he saw Chuck lying on his back, he thought that’s all that had happened to him, too. But then he noticed the blood stains on Chuck’s shirt. He had been hit by shrapnel. Tom said, "I could see blood on the front of his shirt, and I tore his shirt open and that’s when geysers of blood went up."


He wrapped bandages around Chuck’s chest to stop the bleeding. Tom had been hit by shrapnel himself, in his back and arms, and the brothers spent some time recovering together in a field hospital. Chuck Hagel still has some of the shrapnel from one of the mines in his chest, but he still insists ‘our wounds were no big deal.’ A month later, after a long firefight, the brothers’ unit was pulling out when a land mine exploded under their armored personnel carrier at the rear of the column. Chuck thought his brother Tom, the turret gunner, had been killed by the initial impact. He grabbed Tom and found he was ‘dead weight, blood pouring out of his ears.’ He started pulling Tom and others from the carrier, trying to get everyone out before the ammunition in the carrier blew up. But he was still too close when the inevitable explosion came and set him on fire, burning his face severely." [His brother survived.]

One of Hagel’s first jobs in Vietnam: burning crap from the latrines. 

Berens’ book:

Read Salon’s "The Private War of Chuck and Tom Hagel," in 2007: "After saving each other’s lives in combat, Chuck Hagel, the future Republican senator of Nebraska, and his brother Tom fought about Vietnam and Iraq — until they finally saw eye to eye." 

Log Cabin Republicans still don’t like Hagel. Today’s WaPo, page A-7, carries a full-page ad from the gay and lesbian advocacy group, the Log Cabin Republicans: "Chuck Hagel’s record on gay rights" describes the history of his views on the issue, from 1996, in which "Hagel says he would have voted for the Defense of Marriage Act; to 1998, when he "argues that an ‘openly, aggressively gay’ man should not be selected as a U.S. ambassador"; to 1999, when Hagel is said to have opposed repealing DADT; to 2005, when "in reaction to a federal judge’s ruling that Nebraska’s voter-passed ban on same-sex marriage violated the constitutional rights of lesbians and gay men, Hagel calls on the court to reverse its decision, complaining the court had overridden Nebraska voters who opposed gay marriage"; to 2012, when, "in an effort to secure the nomination for Secretary of Defense, Hagel finally apologizes."

Doug Wilson, the highest-ranking openly gay former Pentagon official, who headed DOD public affairs, to Situation Report: "Senator Hagel made clear he regretted his comment about Ambassador Hormel, and major organizations like the Human Rights Campaign essentially accepted the apology. I think Senator Hagel, if he is nominated, would not only be an outstanding Secretary of Defense but he would be a strong advocate for the president’s support for gay and lesbian service members, including the implementation of the full repeal of [Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell]. Senator Hagel made clear that he would be fully supportive of open service and made clear he was committed to [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] military families, and if he is nominated, I would fully expect that he would live up to those commitments." 

The E-Ring’s Kevin Baron found these Hagelisms:

"There will be no victory or defeat for the United States in Iraq."

"The worst thing we can do, the most dangerous thing we can do is continue to isolate nations, is to continue to not engage nations. Great powers engage."

"I told Obama he should pick Biden as his running mate."

"There is no glory in war, only suffering."

"We must avoid the traps of hubris and imperial temptation that comes with great power."

Stan McChrystal was asked to weigh in on Hagel, this morning on "Today:" "If President Obama trusts him, I think Senator Hagel has the experience, he certainly has got the qualities as a person, the real matter is if that president has that level of trust." Asked by Matt Lauer if Hagel’s statements over the years on Iraq and Israel and other matters would disqualify him: "I don’t think so. I think what you’re going to find is you have to predict the future, and they’re going to face very complex problems, many of which we can’t predict, and I think that level of trust and relationship between those people and with other members of the Cabinet are the most important."

In a somewhat tense interview on McChrystal’s book, "My Share of the Task," out this morning, Lauer kept on McChrystal about the "deficit of trust" between the White House and the Department of Defense.

Lauer: "Was that mistrust a two-way street? Did you distrust the people at the White House, did you distrust key members of the Obama administration, when it came to their policy in dealing with Afghanistan?"

McChrystal: "I think what’s most important is we spent a lot of time sharing information to try to build trust. Trust comes with time, trust comes with cooperation, trust comes with compromise, and I think that’s what we worked through in that really detailed way."

Lauer: "With all due respect, you didn’t answer my question. Did you distrust the president and key members of the administration in terms of their handling of the war in Afghanistan?"

McChrystal: "Yeah, I still believe that the most important thing we can do is build that trust."



BBC: World media downplay Assad’s peace plan.

New Reuters: Pope says stop war in Syria before it becomes a "field of ruins."

Press TV: Analyst says Saudis assist CIA strikes in Yemen.

Danger Room: Iran targets dissidents with 30,000 strong spy army.


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