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Chuck Hagel Still on Obama’s Radar for Defense Chief

Junko Kimura/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama is still weighing his choices to replace outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and apparently hasn't discounted Chuck Hagel, even as some critics feel the former Nebraska senator's past opinions disqualify him for the job.

Obama told NBC's Meet the Press in a taped interview Sunday that nothing in Hagel's background would preclude him from becoming defense chief.

According to the president, Hagel "is somebody who has done extraordinary work both in the United States Senate [and] somebody who served this country with valor in Vietnam."

Having served with Hagel in the Senate for four years, Obama called the former lawmaker "a patriot."

Some Republicans and Democrats believe that Hagel didn't take a strong enough position on support for Israel or sanctions against Iran while senator. 

Hagel also came under fire for a 1998 statement he made that an "openly, aggressive gay" man should not represent the U.S. as an overseas ambassador.  In this case, it was James C. Hormel, who became envoy to Luxembourg.

Asked about that, Obama said that Hagel has since apologized and that attitudes about gays and lesbians serving for the government and in the military have undergone an evolution that the president helped promote.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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