Barack Obama and Chuck Hagel in Jordan in 2008.
It's not yet official, but former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) is believed to be President Obama's top choice to become the Secretary of Defense in a second term. One might expect most of the pushback to come from the left -- Democratic presidents, the argument goes, shouldn't keep nominating Republicans to head the Pentagon.
And yet, the loudest complaints about Obama possibly nominating a conservative Republican are coming from the right. Republican Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Susan Collins, emboldened after smearing Susan Rice for no reason, have said he's been occasionally critical of Israel and insufficiently aggressive in his posture towards Iran. The Weekly Standard and the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal have taken related shots.
The Washington Post editorial board, which tends to be consistently conservative on foreign policy, also criticized Hagel today, in part because he supports cutting the Pentagon's budget, which he sees as "bloated."
In terms of substantive responses to the criticisms, I'd recommend recent pieces from John Judis and James Fallows, both of whom offer compelling defenses of Hagel's record. But the fact that these two prominent center-left voices have offered spirited arguments against Hagel's detractors reinforce a larger point: conservatives, whether they realize it or not, are rallying support for Obama's likely pick.
This happened quite a bit with Susan Rice. There were some pockets of progressive criticism for the U.N. Ambassador, which quickly faded when the right's smear campaign intensified -- the more Republicans tried to destroy her reputation, the more the left decided it loved Rice after all.
Don't be too surprised if we see a similar dynamic unfold with Hagel -- the more the usual suspects on the right, including the nation's leading neoconservatives, insist Hagel face opposition, the more conservatives help shore up Hagel's support among Democrats.