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Mr. Hagel’s constant criticism of Mr. Bush made him a celebrity among Washington’s news media.

In a 2007 solo appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations, The Washington Post’s Robert Kaiser prompted him to label Mr. Bush one of the worst presidents ever.

Mr. Hagel complied.

“This is one of the most arrogant, incompetent administrations I’ve ever seen personally or ever read about,” he told the crowd of journalists and former government officials.

Bush supporters today point out that Mr. Obama, while criticizing Mr. Bush as a war leader, has embraced many of his key counterterrorism policies conceived after the Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda attacks on America, such as the USA Patriot Act and the authority to use force against terrorists, Predator drone strikes on al Qaeda leadership in Pakistan and Yemen, the terrorist surveillance operation to intercept cellphone and email communications that pass through the U.S., a bank finance tracking program, the enlargement of special operations forces to hunt down extremists worldwide, and the legal principle that the U.S. can hold terrorism suspects indefinitely.

Detractors and defenders

Mr. Hagel’s views on Iran, Iraq and Israel, and his unconditional criticism of Mr. Bush have spurred opposition to him taking the helm at the Pentagon.

The new year may well present Mr. Obama with a key decision on Iran’s atomic program, given remarks by Israeli leaders, who have a plan for bombing the regime’s nuclear facilities. As defense secretary, Mr. Hagel would be one of the president’s chief advisers.

“Were Chuck Hagel to be nominated as secretary of defense, the Iranian mullahs would interpret President Obama’s decision as a signal that the military option was now, effectively, off the table,” lawyer Alan Dershowitz wrote in National Review. “It would encourage them to proceed with their development of nuclear weapons without fear of an attack from the United States.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, sees few Republican votes for Mr. Hagel’s Senate confirmation.

“I like Chuck. But his positions, I didn’t really frankly know all of them, are really out of the mainstream, and well to the left of the president,” Mr. Graham told “Meet the Press.” I’ve got questions about Chuck’s view of Iran, the situation with Hamas and Hezbollah, his position toward Israel. I want to hear what he has to say. But very troubling comments by a future secretary of defense.”

The left has come to Mr. Hagel’s defense.

The New Yorker magazine elevated Mr. Hagel to victim status, and portrayed him as being unfairly skewered by deranged Republicans.

“They have drawn a caricature of a supposedly anti-Semitic, terrorist-coddling, Iran-appeasing, unilaterally disarming, wildly liberal malcontent,” wrote senior editor Amy Davidson. “It hardly seems to matter to them that none of those things are true. But what’s becoming clearest in this fight isn’t anything about Hagel, but the derangement of the Republican Party, to use what may soon be an obsolete term for a movement in a state of sour disorder.”

Four former White House national security advisers endorsed Mr. Hagel in a letter to The Washington Post.

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