Something rare just happened. Rather than me having to dog various of the media handlers or key policy hands at the National Security Council or White House on whether Chuck Hagel is on or off the SecDef list, I just got a phone call from a senior Executive Branch person in the know who said something along the lines that the media are hyperventilating this thing into the wrong direction and that the process of considering nominees is proceeding in a way completely different than the media are telling it. This person said Hagel is very much on the list.
I asked if Hagel had the edge in the process -- and got nothing more than the above. I was told that there were concerns about "stature" and "command capabilities" of the other publicly mentioned possibilities.
But let's be blunt about something. I can't offer my source's name though can attest to the individual's proximity to some of the nominee discussions. Am I being spun? Perhaps. The fact is that I did not solicit this particular call and this person has never tilted me wrong before. If Ashton Carter, Jack Reed, Colin Powell, or Michele Flournoy end up standing next to the president introduced as his next SecDef nominee, is the information I just received wrong? Not necessarily. This is a process where shadows and nuance are the rule.