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January 8th, 2013
08:06 AM ET

Special Correspondent for Newsweek & The Daily Beast, Peter Beinart, on criticism of Hagel nomination: 'character assassination to be honest'

President Obama is looking at a tough second term ahead as he re-stocks his cabinet, getting criticized for his choices by politicians from both parties. He officially nominated former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican, to replace Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense. The president said Monday, "Chuck Hagel's leadership of our military would be historic. He'd be the first person of enlisted rank to serve as Secretary of Defense. One of the few secretaries who have been wounded in war and the first Vietnam veteran to lead the department.”

The president also gave a nod to his Anti-Terrorism Chief John Brennan to be the next Director of The CIA. But it's Hagel who's getting the most scrutiny as critics pick apart comments he made in the past. Peter Beinart is a Special Correspondent for Newsweek & The Daily Beast and the author of "The Crisis of Zionism". He wrote a very in-depth piece about the implications of Hagel's nomination and comes to “Early Start” this morning with his take.

Hagel, who has publicly expressed his opposition to war, is being criticized for it by politicians for his views on sanctions and military action in Iran. Beinart believes Hagel is just considering the enormous financial costs of imposing wars. “He’s a lot like Dwight Eisenhower, who people forget drove the defense budget down quite dramatically,” Beinart says. “He believed America’s real power was its fiscal health.” Hagel is also being scrutinized for his position on Israel and relationship with the Jewish community, who many believe he does not support and some equate to anti-Semitic. Beinart refutes this assessment. "I think this is really a smoke screen," Beinart says. "I think it's character assasination to be honest."