Buzz in the Senate: Hagel wasn't so hot in hearing
January 31st, 2013
05:05 PM ET
5 years 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. Sam

    Senate Ayotte is looking for a fight with Hagel. She stands beside McCain and Graham as un-American. She is not looking for solutions but a fight.

    January 31, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  2. chilly g

    john mccain need to retire arizona can do much better that this sore loser.

    January 31, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  3. illinidiva

    So.... Now we know why Biden and Hagel are such buddies. They're both morons.

    January 31, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |

    Anyone else sick of these rich old white buzzards wasting our money? They don't like Hagel because they detest Obama, i.e. John "sour grapes" McCain. Gimme a break!

    January 31, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  5. Facts don't Lie

    so does the GOP hate Obama so much they want to "claim a scalp" even if it happens to be one of their own? Susan Rice was not available and too many of them liked John Kerry so I guess nobody is left but Hagel. Wonder how it would have gone had he picked say....John McCain?

    January 31, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  6. GI Joe

    Old man McSongbird's ego is all that is left in that shriveled up empty shell.

    January 31, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  7. Ancient Texan

    Sam– Well, Somebody has to look after America's interest. Those three care about the country.

    January 31, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  8. Pee Pee Pie Piee

    Susan Bash is an Israeli apologist. Any thing she says is considered loserdim. She is a loser of the highest order.

    January 31, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  9. Rick McDaniel

    This was not a stellar choice for such a very important post.

    January 31, 2013 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  10. James Klimaski

    Chuck Hagel did quite good considering the questions he was getting from the Republican Senators. He stuck to his positions. While conventional wisdom claims the Surge worked, an objective analysis would demonstrate in didn't do anything to stabilize Iraq. Almost every day there is another bombing with scores killed and wounded. The Surge was nothing more than a face saving measure to allow us to withdraw our troops and claim some sort of victory. It was as needless waste of our military resources.

    January 31, 2013 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  11. Smokey

    In 2008 John McCain said Hagel would make an excellent Sec. of State (in a McCain administration, mind you) he has nothing nice to say about the guy...what changed, Senator?

    January 31, 2013 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  12. Randy, San Francisco

    McCain is the Republican/Tea Party angry old white man poster child.

    January 31, 2013 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  13. PJ

    @Ancient "those three care about the country" Texan:
    You could have fooled me.
    Guess you are also enthralled with Ted Cruz, the tea party darling, who put on an embarrassing display of

    January 31, 2013 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  14. Flatlander

    Another example of the Republicans eating there young. Hagel is toast President Obama needs to look for someone else to head up Defense.

    January 31, 2013 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  15. Len

    we need more people with guns i'm this country.....we need more wars.....right wing men, we need you to join the army.....please so you can see what war is really like

    January 31, 2013 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  16. Evergreen

    How many of these Senators are walking around with shrapnel in their bodies from fighting for this country. Mr. Hagel is a reminder of what the republican party used to be. An american veteran is being cruxified for putting America first.

    January 31, 2013 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  17. norma jean

    John McCain is becoming more and more arrogant in his actions now that he is losing political ground.He shouild retire and stop beating on everybody around him for very little reason except that his nose is out of joint because he still thinks he should have been president. He is a has-been and its time for him to get out of the picture for good!!!! !RETIRE MCCAIN!!!!

    January 31, 2013 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  18. Dean


    Anyone else sick of these rich old white buzzards wasting our money? They don't like Hagel because they detest Obama, i.e. John "sour grapes" McCain. Gimme a break!
    -----------Maybe they don't like Hagel because he isn't qualified and won't look out for the best interest of the USA.

    January 31, 2013 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  19. norma jean

    Considering the "Hazing" Hagel was getting, I doubt that most anyone would have a hard time looking good!

    January 31, 2013 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  20. Dan in Michigan

    Dear James Ski,
    Conventional wisdom might also suggest to you that when the occupying force pulls out all of its troops, what remains won't be stable.

    January 31, 2013 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  21. adm120

    Erin tells us Hagel may be a "neocons nightmare" – actually he is just an unqualified idiot. Then her buddy Avalon is shocked that anyone is upset with this dope because his positions NOW are exactly like Obama's – really? When his votes and previopus statements are so contradictory ??? Duh Would any Rpublican nominee get a pass on this Erin? Of course not – this bias is just too obvious in the reporting Erin.......

    January 31, 2013 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  22. n, tx

    Hagel will be a great secretary of defense

    January 31, 2013 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  23. The Elephant in the Room

    Let Hagel be filibustered. Then let Mr. Obama pick another Republican Senator [preferably from a state with a Democratic Governor]. Once that Governor has named a replacement, the President should FIRE the former Republican Senator.

    January 31, 2013 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  24. The NRA is a T e r r o r i st organisation....Arming Mentally Unbalanced People to Kill Innocent Children

    Hagel is a former two-term Republican senator. He won two Purple Hearts as an infantry squad leader in Vietnam. No one could possibly dispute his devotion to the country, its security, or its armed forces. But he is a pragmatist, not a mindless Con-bot.

    Bush lied, 5,000 Americans died. I wonder what part of that the angry old white Republican guy doesn’t get?

    Every time I think John McCain might be one of the sane ones on the right, he disproves me. He's not interested in hearing Hagel's responses, he's trying to score political points.

    The GOP should take a step back on this and review the way they looked today. You would have thought Hagel was auditioning to be Prime Mister of Israel with the line of questioning. I'm a republican and was almost outraged.

    McCain : Hagel on the wrong side of history on Iraq?????? Another Republican who never met a useless war he didn't want to fund with MY money under false pretenses then defend it even when it was clearly WRONG! Tell this old fool "THERE WERE NO WMDs YOU LIED TO US!"

    Funny how McCain went so low as to justify the war in Iraq that cost us 4,000 troops lives and cost us $3 Trillion tax dollars! I give Hagle credit for standing up to his party and voting down for that war.

    Hagel acknowledged he could not name a specific lawmaker intimidated by the Jewish lobby.

    What ? Lindsay Graham was right there in front of him.

    January 31, 2013 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  25. Desert Rat

    Dana Ruth Schwartz (real name) Bash is one hundred percent with the Israel Lobby and is joining the anti-Hagel effort with made-up innuendo. Anyone who will not cater to Israel's interests ahead of America's is just not good enough for her or them. Remember the cheap-shot interview where she kept cutting off Ron Paul – same thing, the Israel Lobby at work.

    January 31, 2013 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
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