Everyone has something to say about Chuck Hagel. Conservatives decry his past statements on Israel, concerns about his willingness to cut the military budget, and his “soft” positions on Iran. Liberals have spoken out against him for past comments about a gay ambassador, the fact that he’s a Republican, and the idea that a woman—former Under Secretary of Defense Michele Flournoy—might have been a better pick.
But all the hubbub over a potential confirmation fight drowns out some voices that really matter. We’re talking about the Secretary of Defense here. What do soldiers and veterans have to say about Hagel?
As it turns out, plenty—and much of it good. The Veterans of Foreign Wars issued a statement saying that it “considers Chuck Hagel — a twice-wounded Vietnam War infantryman and former two-term U.S. senator from Nebraska — to be uniquely qualified to lead the Department of Defense.” A group of decorated former military brass has publicly endorsed Hagel. And in various columns and online comments, Hagel’s past military service—if confirmed, he would be the first Secretary of Defense to have served as an enlisted soldier—wins him applause. “I like the fact that he is an independent thinker with first-hand knowledge of what it's like to serve in the military as an enlistee,” writes Kerry Patton, a veteran, in an opinion column. Another vet commenting on an Army Times story had similar praise: “I hope he succeeds because he understands what most of the decision makers don't.”