In addition, he issued a defense of former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who has been mentioned as one of the leading candidates to replace Leon Panetta as defense secretary.
Hagel supported the 2002 resolution approving U.S. military action in Iraq, but later became a critic of the war. He has been denounced by some conservatives for not being a strong enough ally of Israel. Also, many liberals and gay activists have banded against him for comments he made in 1998 about an openly gay nominee for an ambassadorship.
Obama, who briefly served with Hagel in the Senate, stressed that he had yet to make a decision but called Hagel a “patriot.”
Hagel “served this country with valor in Vietnam,” the president said. “And (he) is somebody who’s currently serving on my intelligence advisory board and doing an outstanding job.”
Obama noted that Hagel had apologized for his 14-year-old remark on gays.