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. Mauri

    Chuck Hagel had all the time, suggestions and urgings to enter the Republican primaries toward the presidency. He chose not to do this, so why is he now pre-supposing that he has the right to criticize anything John McCain proposes? Also, if he and McCain are the buddies he and CNN say they are, why didn't he just call him on the phone? Me thinks those of you who think he's pursuing the VP slot with Obama may be on to something. Isn't it funny, that all those (like Obama and Hagel) who constantly say they're not going to resort to "politics," usually turn out to be the biggest practitioners of the political system?

    May 21, 2008 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  2. Texan47

    If Israel is talking to Hamas, and feels that they need to speak, I suppose McCain just wants to be in the "fighting mood".. if Iraq has not taught us a lesson, imagine getting into another conflict..!!!

    War mongering should be the "last resort".. guess McCain did not learn his lesson in Viet Nam,.. or his age is beginning to make him forget!!! Talk is cheaper.. However, I can understand his lobbyist friends being for the war.. "it is all about $$$..)

    May 21, 2008 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  3. 58 white old ladies for OBAMA




    May 21, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  4. Mike Birmingham, AL

    McCain doesn't stand a chance in November.

    All the polls that say that people will switch from Hillary to McCain aren't worth the paper they are printed on. I don't doubt there are some Hillary followers that will try the "scorched earth" approach, but for the most part these are the Operation Chaos nuts trying to stir things up.

    May 21, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  5. Javier

    Bring my brother Home!!! His 18 month niece would like to see him!

    18 months in IRAQ & 1 Humve away from death!

    9 Months in Afghanistan & counting...

    We love this country, but we are asking to much from are brave Men and Women, who proudly follow commands to carry out TWO WARS at once. Chuck is absolutely correct, and had we have been committed to ending the real threats, we would have finished this back in the mountains of Afghanistan. And although I agree Saddam was an Evil man, and this world is better off with out him, we entered that war with a failed commitment and policy, and know we are being hacked by the corrupt Iraqi leadership, go figure!

    While Bush & McCan’t beg for Oil from the Saudis!!!!!!

    May 21, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  6. Kay

    Senator Hagel is a good man with much integrity. He tells it like it is and doesn't like the way our country is going either. He has more intelligence and experience than McCain. He knows the attacks against Senator Obama are unfounded and twisted. McCain has too many Lobbyist and special interest ties which is the very thing we need to get away from in our government.

    May 21, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  7. Matt - AZ

    Sen. Hagel and I understand all too well this is not normal behavior for Sen. McCain. He is merely pandering to the Republican Conservative base and attaching to closely to the failed policies of the Bush Adm. which will prove to be his undoing.

    May 21, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  8. jumpinugly

    Pound for pound, Chuck is one of our greatest Americans. Barack should choose him as his VP choice.

    May 21, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  9. D.

    Is Hagel going to be Obama's cabinet? His name keeps coming across the television.

    May 21, 2008 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  10. Jerico McClure


    May 21, 2008 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  11. Carl

    Talking to other countries that's good. Why is that so difficult to understand. Go Chuck....

    May 21, 2008 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  12. Mike

    If Obama selects Hagel for the VP slot, it is over and done for McCain! Hagel has a clear conservative record and would be ideal to reach the demographics that supposedly Obama is having a hard time connecting with. They would be an amazing team!

    May 21, 2008 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  13. EBB, Louisiana

    HALLELUJAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hagel ROCKS!!!! WOOOHOOO!!!!!

    (although I must disagree with the comment that McCain is smarter than what he is actually saying...I think he really is THAT ignorant overall...but that's just my opinion)

    May 21, 2008 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  14. Chris, Middletown, CT

    As a Republican...who also supports Obama...good for him!

    May 21, 2008 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  15. Dan

    Don't you just love how the republicans, loved senator Hagel, when he was following the scripture of the Bush doctrene. But as soon has he shows any independent thought, he suddenly becomes a walking talking democrat. Senator Hagel you didn't walk in lock step, now you'll get the swiftboat treatment. Why is Iran our enemy, I don't know, we haven't talked to them in years. Saying that the democrats want to appease the terrorists, that's just crazy talk. There is only one thing a neocon hates more than a liberal, and that is "truth". The truth is president Obama, will do a great job, for the first time in a long time I have a reason to have hope for our country, and something to be proud of.

    May 21, 2008 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  16. MAC

    My boyfriend is all for Mcsame, and believe it or not my baby is a smart man, i hoping that he will begin to see the light, this man Mccain was of great service to this country, but as president uhh uhh, no way, he and Hillary are both short fuse, they will get this country in alot of trouble, we need diplomacy, and not an over excersion of authority.

    Obama is the man!
    Obama '08

    May 21, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  17. HTA, Chicago, IL

    Obama-Hagel '08 would be an interesting ticket. However, it's all speculation.

    I liked John McCain until he jumped off the Straight Talk Express. He continues to pander to parts of the Republican Party that I don't care for too much. He's not the man I remember from 2000.

    May 21, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  18. Griff

    Go Haggle somewhere else.... John is the Man....Who won't bend in a Breeze like Obama.....

    May 21, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  19. Sean

    Chuck Hagel is simply angling to be on Obama's "unity" ticket.

    May 21, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  20. DPZ

    I agree with everything he said except the part about McCain being
    intellegent the republicans do have a lot of problems.The biggest one
    is now America is learning the republican traits and noticing the brand
    is trash and those who are voting for it are taking the change of becoming that same trashy element.Republicans in the white house and congress are liars and they spew out many false rumors hoping
    one stick if they say it enough.That has won many elections in the past
    but will not win this one.

    Obama 08!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 21, 2008 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  21. James, Houston

    One More Time! John McCain was a P.O.;W. in Nam, Hanoi Hilton, gave up Flag and Colors in lieu of his Skin and Now he's a self professed Hero
    Get Real America, This Guy couldn't be President of Budwiser !

    May 21, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  22. Republican in Idaho

    America!! Please listen!!! We can not go around threatening our enemies and ignoring them. It hasn't worked in the past and it will not work in the future. Israel and every other ally in the middle east is sick of America and its policies. Going into Iraq did not make us safer, it only put Hussein aside so that Iran could build their power and push their movement along with Hezbollah and Hamas. We have allowed that to happen. Saddam had them suppressed right where he wanted them, and we destroyed that. Our allies in the middle east are mad at us for making their lives more terrorifying. Bush has increased our threat from terrorists not decreased. We have more enemies scattered around the world then ever before. You think someone like John McCain who goes around threatening our enemies is going to improve America's place in the world? Think again. If you have an enemy does it do you and that person any good to ignore each other or to fight? Since when did fighting ever solve anything? What if you and that person talked about your difference? Then you might really be able to solve the problem. Wake up McCain. You might have to swallow your pride and do whats best for America and not whats best for your ego, like Bush.

    May 21, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  23. Sadie

    Even McCain's own friends don't trust him?? Hmm..

    May 21, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  24. Obama v McCain

    Warmonger-one who urges or attempts to stir up war

    Hmmmm, sounds about right to me..Bush/McCain=warmonger

    GO Dems!

    May 21, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  25. Rich

    Ohio add-on super for Clinton

    Why wasn't this reported?????

    The campaign just announced the endorsement of Craig Bashein, who was elected by the Ohio Democratic Committee as one of the state's two add-on superdelegates on May 10.

    “Hillary brings a wealth of proven experience in both domestic and foreign policy that provides a great sense of confidence and security in our future,” Bashein said in a statement released by the campaign. “She has the strength and determination to beat John McCain this Fall.”

    May 21, 2008 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19