Buzz in the Senate: Hagel wasn't so hot in hearing
January 31st, 2013
05:05 PM ET
1 year ago

Buzz in the Senate: Hagel wasn't so hot in hearing

Washington (CNN) - Senators won't give their official reading of former Sen. Chuck Hagel's performance at Thursday's nomination hearing until they vote on his nomination to be defense secretary.

But some think Hagel didn't do so well.

Several senators told CNN that during a series of Senate floor votes during a break in the hearing that Hagel's lackluster performance, in the opinion of many senators, was all the buzz on the Senate floor.

One senator who is undecided but was not at the Armed Services Committee hearing says it is "all the talk – I mean all the talk." Fellow senators are "shocked" by how ill prepared Hagel seemed for basic questions about controversial comments he has made, this senator said.

A Democrat on the committee supporting Hagel shook his head in disbelief, saying he was surprised Hagel was not more forceful, especially since he has been on the other side of the dais and knows how this works. Hagel served in the Senate from 1997 through 2008.

Another undecided senator - this one who serves on the committee responsible for vetting Hagel's nomination - was also taken aback that Hagel didn't have better answers for Sen. John McCain's pointed questions, especially on the Iraq surge. The senator said Hagel could have simply said "the Iraq war was wrong, but once we were there, the surge was the right way to go."

Separately, an administration official involved in the confirmation process said "a lot of what we've seen today is political theater. Chuck Hagel is someone very pragmatic and he wanted to have a conversation. He didn't take the bait. Some people will say he didn't get angry or mad, but that's not who he is. He decided to take the high road."

But that said, a second official acknowledged "we think he's on his way, but he didn't round the bases today. He could have. He didn't." Had Hagel "rounded the bases," he would have ensured no senator would step forward to filibuster him.

To be sure several Democrats on the committee defended Hagel, telling CNN they believe he was getting attacked with unfair gotcha questions on statements he made years ago.

Asked if he thought the questions were fair, Sen. Carl Levin, who chairs the committee, told reporters he thought "some of the questions where (Hagel) was not allowed to answer was not appropriate."

He added that he hopes the committee could vote on Hagel's nomination as early as next Thursday.

– CNN's Barbara Starr and Rachel Streitfeld contributed to this report.


Filed under: Chuck Hagel
soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. GOP IS LOST

    Yeah, he wasn't too hot, but the GOP was pretty darn disgraceful and embarrasing...

    January 31, 2013 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  2. Georgiabelle

    After watching Hagel's astonishingly inept performance this afternoon, including forgetting what his previous positions were so he could assure the panel that he had changed his mind about those positions, I have just one question for all of you: Would you trust this man with your life, or more to the point your children and grandchildren's lives? Because that is the essence of the job he is Interviewing for, Secretary of Defense. I cannot imagine a more ill-suited, ill-prepared candidate. God help us all if he is confirmed.

    January 31, 2013 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  3. Frank31

    One thing is clear from this; McCain is way past his sell-by date, and needs to retire. Anyone who is so confused that they attempt to justify the Iraq war after all we have learned since, is clearly either ignorant or not all there mentally.

    Go nation-build somewhere else, McCain. We have better things to spend money on, like our own Country.

    January 31, 2013 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  4. Kip

    Presdent Obama should immediately withdraw former Senator Hagel's name and ask former General Wesley Clark to serve. He is far better qualified and a hell of a lot brighter (he was a Rhodes Scholar). Senator Hagel is not smart enough to be Secretary of Defense and he proved it today.

    January 31, 2013 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  5. Alyson

    That was an unmitigated disaster today!

    January 31, 2013 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  6. clarke

    What is the real problem with Hagel, if any.

    January 31, 2013 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  7. M

    Hagel is way betta than idiot McCain – ho does not have the courage to state he was dwad wrong in every aspect of the Irag war. He was trying supress Hagel just to prove that he was right ..what a nut job coward yes 100% coward.

    January 31, 2013 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  8. Sue Brown

    I taught Math for years at the high school and college level.

    If Chuck Hagel had come to my Classroom with only 4 of the 12 assignments asked for (Senate asked for his 12 Speeches of the past 5 years) as he did today, and if he answered questions in the manner as he did (Iran Status, Containment Policy, etc.) I would have asked him to stay after class so that I could have spoken with him about his lack of competence. Then I would have told him if he preformed this way at work, I would have no qualms firing him.

    For pity sakes, folks, the man did NOT even know that the Obama Administration had a Containment Policy.

    A Democratic Senator had to speak out for him and instruct him just what it was !

    He acts like an uncaring, unprepared, unknowledgeable, Senile Incompetent.

    Says a lot about Obama's Judgement.

    January 31, 2013 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  9. Mona

    John Mc Cain is a poor excuse for a Senator! He wouldn't even let Hagel explain in answering mccain's question....what a rotten RUDE!!! I can hardly wait until he is defeated at his next election. He thinks he is the answer to everyone's prayer, but after his choice of Palin we know he had to be sucking up too many of dem beers! Get a clue Mc Cain,
    GET LOST!

    January 31, 2013 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
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