Washington (CNN) – Former members of Congress and foreign policy professionals are coming to the defense of former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, who’s expected to be tapped as the nominee for Defense Secretary.
Known as the Bipartisan Group, they have letters published in several publications defending Hagel, who has come under harsh criticism from some members of Congress and conservative activists over past positions not supporting sanctions against Iran and what some of them consider a dovish defense point of view. Also some pro-Israel lobbyists believe he has not been supportive enough of the Jewish state. Hagel also opposed the surge of troops in Iraq pushed by the Bush administration.
In one of its letters the group said, “We write to you, Mr. President, in support of Senator Hagel because we believe our polarized political life is much in need of leaders with the kind of bipartisanship and independence of conscience and mind that Chuck Hagel’s service to our country has exemplified.”
Among its notable members are Former National Security Advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, Former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci, Former Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering, Former Sens. David Boren, Nancy Kassebaum-Baker and Gary Hart.
To help get its message out the Bipartisan Group in the last few weeks approached the Podesta Group, one of Washington’s leading lobbying and public relations firms, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. Some of the members have been doing television interviews as well to help defend Hagel and his record.
The criticism of Hagel before there is even a formal nomination “is not acceptable” and “unseemly,” according to this source and that is the motivation for the actions by these notable foreign policy veterans – “to show he has a record” and to defend it, this source added. “Premature judging…is unfair.”
The source would not detail the group’s future plans if Hagel is nominated but said “they will continue to speak out, to push back.” The source was not authorized to speak for attribution about the group’s activities.
A spokesman for the Podesta Group declined comment saying it does not speak about its clients.
Several members did not return CNN’s calls and emails seeking comment about the group and its plans.