WASHINGTON -- President Obama tapped two controversial figures to lead his national security team Monday, and warned that any delays caused by a confirmation fight would put the safety of the country at risk.
When it comes to national security, Obama said, “we don’t like to leave a lot of gaps between the time that one set of leaders transitions out and another transitions in.”
But a fight was unfolding even as Obama made official the announcements of Chuck Hagel as his choice for Pentagon chief and John Brennan as head of the CIA, despite Obama’s efforts to package them as a bipartisan pair.
Republican lawmakers immediately pledged to scrutinize both men, who have raised concerns among conservatives and liberals in the past.
Hagel rankled fellow Republicans by criticizing the Iraq policy of President George W. Bush and for occasionally endorsing Democrats.
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A veteran of the intelligence apparatus, Brennan withdrew from consideration for the top CIA position four years ago as liberals questioned his ties to the Bush administration’s use of brutal interrogation techniques.
He denied strongly that he had ever supported those policies, but the questions alone derailed his nomination.
Now Obama’s message is that he won’t be pushed around like that again.
In December, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice asked Obama to take her out of the running for secretary of State amid growing controversy over her response to the deaths at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi last year.
Although he had publicly spoken up in defense of Rice, a trusted advisor and friend, Obama instead chose Sen. John Kerry, considered a much more Senate-friendly pick for the job.
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