May 21st, 2008
10:30 AM ET
13 years ago

Hagel criticizes McCain over Iran comments

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Hagel is upset with some of McCain's comments on Iran."](CNN) - John McCain needs to cool his rhetoric attacking Barack Obama over foreign policy, one of the Arizona senator's good friends in the Senate said.

According to a report on, Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican and long time friend of McCain, said Tuesday he is "very upset" with some of the things the party's presumptive presidential nominee has been saying as he campaigns for the White House.

"We know from past campaigns that presidential candidates will say many things," Hagel reportedly said. "But once they have the responsibility to govern the country and lead the world, that difference between what they said and what responsibilities they have to fulfill are vastly different."

"I'm very upset with John with some of the things he's been saying," Hagel added. "And I can't get into the psychoanalysis of it. But I believe that John is smarter than some of the things he is saying. He is, he understands it more. John is a man who reads a lot, he's been around the world. I want him to get above that and maybe when he gets into the general election, and becomes the general election candidate he will have a higher-level discourse on these things."

Hagel, who is not running for reelection in November, has become an outspoken critic of the War in Iraq and he said in April he is open to the possibility of endorsing Obama's candidacy.

Speaking Tuesday night at the Italian ambassador's Washington residence, Hagel specifically took issue with McCain's criticisms of Obama's position that he would be willing to meet with leaders like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinjad without preconditions.

"I never understand how anyone in any realm of civilized discourse could sort through the big issues and challenges and threats and figure out how to deal with those without engaging in some way," Hagel said.

Hagel's comments follow a prolonged back and forth between both McCain and Obama over the best way to deal with Iran. Speaking to CNN Tuesday, Obama said McCain "essentially wants to continue George Bush’s policies of not talking to leaders we don’t like and not talking to countries we don’t like."
McCain suggested at a Chicago campaign event Monday that Obama doesn’t understand the "basic realities of international relations" and that engaging Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad diplomatically would only embolden him.

"Senator Obama has declared, and repeatedly reaffirmed his intention to meet the President of Iran without any preconditions, likening it to meetings between former American Presidents and the leaders of the Soviet Union," said McCain. "Such a statement betrays the depth of Senator Obama’s inexperience and reckless judgment."

Filed under: John McCain
soundoff (463 Responses)
  1. Michele, Oregon

    Kudos to Sen. Hagel! One of the main reasons people are choosing Obama is exactly his foreign policy stance which includes engaging leaders of nations "we don't like". McCain suggests that meeting with them lends a kind of credibility and "emboldens" them. Cold war mentality/strategy does nothing to further peace process and continues to fan the flame of anti-American sentiment abroad . It speaks to the lowest denominator of fear and pride on the homefront as usual. I pray it does not work THIS time.

    May 21, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  2. Another mama4obama

    You go Senator Hagel !

    Now is the time to put aside or cross party lines to find solutions to America's and the World's problems. We need smart and honest players who are determined to make progress.

    May 21, 2008 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  3. faye, NV

    He should be ashame of Mccain alnd his party.-+

    May 21, 2008 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  4. NoMcSame

    Tell it like it is Chuck. Too bad he waisted so many years in the wrong party. Its not to late for you to get on board the Obama express. WE BE ROLLIN.
    Talk to them Obama and save American lives. No warmonger McSame. Send Rush,Bill O. and the rest of the cowards at Fox to Iraq to show the world how much they love this country.

    May 21, 2008 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  5. Proud1of 26% in WV

    Let it go ,if this is all the campaign he has to offer he is in big trouble.

    May 21, 2008 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  6. steve

    Dems be warned:

    MCcain and Rethugs supporters are posting in several blogs pretending to be HRC supporters that they would not vote Obama if he wins the nomination.

    This is part of the operation chaos.

    May 21, 2008 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  7. Oliver

    Only a republican NOT SEEKING re-election will say something like this. It tell you what some republicans are thinking. McCain is rambling and grasping for anything on a fine human being like Obama.

    All the "great" U.S. presidents have talked to antagonistic governments. Not doing so is political pandering... That is what McCain is doing. Scarefactor when it comes to Iran and pandering to the cuban vote in Florida.

    May 21, 2008 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  8. Jim Loud

    I'm surprised Hagel didn't also question the intelligence of McCain's comments deriding Obama's judgement for not recognizing that relatively tiny, non-nuclear Iran was as big a threat to the US as the Soviet Union was during the cold war. Given that the "We will bury you" Soviet Union had enough nuclear weapons (and delivery systems) to destroy not only us but the entire world McCain's statement approaches the patholigically wierd. Do you suppose he's forgotten the Cuban missel crisis when soviet nuclear weapons were pointed at us only 90 miles from our shore? Unbelievable!

    May 21, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  9. Joe Black

    I was a big John McCain supporter, and it is possible I still might vote for him.

    But he keeps making it harder and harder.

    1. He confuses Sunnis and Shiites WHILE IN IRAQ. He said Al Queada was funded by Shiites. Whoops! Wrong Muslims! Thanks for playing, John. You can't criticize the other fellow's Middle_east policy if you don't know who the players are.

    2. His Obama=HAMAS CANDIDATE comments are so out of left field it isn't funny. I was terribly disappointed.

    3. His criticism of Obama for saying he would TALK to people was disappointing too. Remember, Reagan sent Oliver North to Iran to talk. Nixon went to China. Reagan talked to Gorbachev. You have to TALK before you lob bombs.

    I have contributed FINANCIALLY to the McCain campaign in the past. Now I am sending my money to Obama.

    John might still get my vote. But he has to create a positive image of what HE will do, not just tear down and smear the other guy.

    There is a different mood in this country. Only stupid people (Hillary Supporters) fall for the negative attacks. People are tired of being patrionized, talked down to, and treated like fools.

    Except, apparently, KY, PA and WVA.

    May 21, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  10. bill pike

    wow. maybe just maybe this is why this 70 year old white southern army vet is voting for obama. mcbush has destroyed our name all over the world. Think of Lincoln talking about using honey to win your enemy over and mcbush still thinks it is about power-IRAQ HAS CREATED A NO WIN SITUATION FOR US WITH THE ENEMY WHO HAS GROWTH TO FULL STRENGTH BECAUSE OF MCBUSH. BITTER??? HELL YES. idiots and self seekers like loser dobbs or is that lost his dobber is down or losit dobbs??? at 70 i get confused, but dobbs talks all the time about "as this brilliant independent" he is so upset, has a bad taste-webster says, bitter is to have a bad taste in your, IF I WERE IN CHARGE OF OBAMA'S ELECTION I WOULD HAVE SIGNS "WE ARE BITTER AS HELL AND WE ARE NOT GOING TO TAKE MCBUSH ANYMORE.

    May 21, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  11. Spin

    Another spin to favor Obama, isn't it CNN ?

    May 21, 2008 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  12. Roger, New York, New York

    After having read all of my fellow Democrats comments, I am voiting for McCain.

    May 21, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  13. morton

    I am a lifelong democrat but I would support Hagel in a heartbeat. He is better than any candidate who is running for president. I see honesty in Hagel.

    May 21, 2008 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  14. Tammy - KCMO

    I'm impressed. A Republican that isn't afraid to stand up to his party and say they are wrong in how they've been doing things.

    Very wise statement:
    "I never understand how anyone in any realm of civilized discourse could sort through the big issues and challenges and threats and figure out how to deal with those without engaging in some way," Hagel said.

    I wish others would understand that instead of trying to bully everyone.

    May 21, 2008 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  15. LB

    Straight Talk. If your going to use an example on corn, you should use the biggest corn growing states of Nebraska and Iowa. Since Hagel is from Nebraska he obvious knows more about both subjects than you do. Nebraska "The Good Life" All McCain knows is beer and was.

    May 21, 2008 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  16. M.A. Dashell

    Hats off to you, Senator Hagel. I have always admired you for your candor. You are the only decent member remaining in a party that is clearly out of touch. Sir, I really hope that you would seriously consider being the next Vice President of the United States [2008-2016], and I would like to see you as our President [2016-2024].

    May God bless you and the United States of America.

    May 21, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  17. Greg, Pennsylvania

    One more Obama idiot out there.

    May 21, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  18. John In Georgia


    Listen McBush, or better yet don't, you sound like a looser.

    May 21, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  19. Mish, NYC

    mike e. cooney May 21st, 2008 10:08 am ET.....

    Freedom for Iraq at the cost of American taxpayers? The Iraq war is a complete waste. Bush and his team of crooks were not interested in "freeing" Iraq, they were interested in the oil.

    May 21, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  20. Tony - DC

    I am a Democrat, but have to say I LIKE CHUCK HAGEL. The only THINKING REPUBLICAN in the whole republican party.

    He's intelligent, realistic and calls it like he sees it. Way to go CHUCK!

    P.S. I see Oregon voters played follow-the-leader in voting for Obama.




    May 21, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  21. A.M. Saqib

    Chuck Hagel is one of the best republican Senators known. He is so upfront and honest, and not just now, but that's what his record is. he says, ALWAYS, what is right.

    Thank you Senator Hagel for your comments.

    Obama .. 08!

    A.M. Saqib
    Houston, Texas

    May 21, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  22. bill

    No one is saying that the U. S. can not have discussions with our enemies, but anyone with any common sense knows that those discussions would start with low level representatives, not president to president. obama has no international experience and his statements show it. his lack of experience and basic beliefs prove that he is not some one to entrust with the county's future.

    May 21, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  23. Tony - DC

    Even Chuck Hgael can see through McBush.


    May 21, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  24. Patty

    My goodness how fickle the comments are depending on how the wind blows. Hagel is a great republican one day and just as bad the next day. Seems Obama supporters love it when he is critical of his best friend McCain.
    And for me, a HIllary supporter, Hagel ages ago came to mind as VP choice for Obama when it was discussed he was leaving is seat, because I immediately thought in Obama's grand design to gain the WH at all costs he would pick Hagel as VP just to say he won over MCain's longest and best friend.
    Sorry, this race is nothing more than politics of old trying to be visually swept under the rug as the behind the scenes decisions have been the dirtiest I have seen in ages.

    May 21, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  25. shelly in IL

    Alright Hagel, now that's some good stuff there! You are welcome to endorse Senator O as much as you'd like. And as for Senator McCain = "OLD MAN YELLS @ CLOUD" LMAO

    May 21, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
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