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February 24, 2013

Personal politics

WASHINGTON — The fierce Republican opposition to President Barack Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel to be defense secretary is personal and business.

The nasty fight long has been seen as a proxy for the never-ending scuffles between the Democratic president and congressional Republicans, with barely any reservoir of good will between the White House and lawmakers, and the GOP still smarting over the November election results.

Barring any surprises, the drawn-out battle over Hagel’s nomination probably will end this coming week with his Senate confirmation. But his fellow Republicans have roughed him up.

A vote is expected on Tuesday.

In the weeks after Obama secured a second term, Republicans knocked out a presidential favorite, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, and dashed her secretary of state hopes over her widely debunked remarks about protests precipitating the assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya on Sept. 11.

Emboldened Republicans then set their sights on Hagel, whose GOP classification won him no points with the party.

The former two-term Nebraska senator was widely viewed as a political heretic. He disagreed with President George W. Bush over the Iraq war, stayed on the sidelines in the 2008 president race between Obama and the Republican nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain, and endorsed fellow Vietnam veteran and former Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey in last year’s Nebraska Senate race.

Republicans remember it well.

“There’s a lot of ill will toward Sen. Hagel because when he was a Republican, he attacked President Bush mercilessly, at one point said he was the worst president since Herbert Hoover, said the surge (of U.S. troops in Iraq) was the worst blunder since the Vietnam War, which is nonsense, and was anti-his own party and people,” McCain said in an interview on Fox News on the day Republicans stalled Hagel’s nomination.

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