Amid widespread criticism from both the Right and the Left in the U.S., the White House is rethinking former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel's candidacy for defense secretary, the National Journal reported on Sunday.
A senior Obama administration official told the journal it was “fair” to say Obama is weighing candidates other than Hagel for defense secretary. Among the candidates being considered in particular are Michèle Flournoy, who was undersecretary of defense for policy in Obama's first term, and Ashton Carter, who the current deputy defense secretary.
If selected, Flournoy would become the first female defense secretary.
The report comes only a week after Bloomberg News reported that Hagel was Obama's top choice for the job.
Criticism of Hagel's possible nomination has focused on what some have said is his frequent opposition to Israel's interests after voting several times against U.S. sanctions on Iran and making disparaging remarks about the influence of what he called a "Jewish lobby" in Washington. He has also been criticized for his previous remarks about gays.
The journal said Hagel was also paying, to some extent, for his "bluntness and bravery" in supporting unpopular decisions during his 12 years in the Senate. His stance against his own party and former U.S. President George W. Bush ahead of the war in Iraq turned him from a potential Republican presidential contender "into a pariah within his party," the journal said.