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. Butch Dillon

    If McCain has any sense of correct judgment he will listen carefully and follow the sage advice of Senator Hagel. Chuck Hagel may not be running for reelection in November, but he is far from exiting the political scene. Hagel is a man who shares much with Obama in terms of political unity and independence, but he is also one of our best strategic and tactical visionaries. This nation will change in the years to come, and Chuck Hagel will be at the forefront in setting and leading a new direction.

    May 21, 2008 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  2. Lazarito

    McCain is NOT creative at all ,and has no plan either.He is just focused in continuing the same policies of the past against all the problems we have: Iraq War,Cuba,Noth Korea,Iran,economy,american dollar!!No more BUSH.......PLEASE!!!!!!!
    OBAMA-HILLARY 2008!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 21, 2008 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  3. Hagel

    Hagel is an idiot who is a Democrat trying to gravy-train off the Republian party's strength in Nebraska.

    May 21, 2008 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  4. Michael straight talk

    Chuck is a true and honourable man, with back bones! He has been consistent, unlike McCain the flip flopper! I cannot understand why a man had tried to show that he is different, would support Bush's "appeasement" talk in Knesset? I guess it show his true character! There is a saying: "let the wind blow so one ses what Scotman has under his skirt"!

    May 21, 2008 11:41 am at 11:41 am |

    A vote for John McCain in November, or no vote at all, is a vote AGAINST Hillary Clinton…and against all women in the USA.

    May 21, 2008 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  6. anonymous

    McCain is just keeping the heat on. Obama has some momentum that has to be brought back down to reality. Don't worry Senator, he'll bury Obama in the debates.

    May 21, 2008 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  7. Yankee Air Pirate

    You Obamatrons will jump at anything that appears to help your boy.Hagel's yesterdays news trying to be timely.Obama gets crushed in November.Crushed.

    May 21, 2008 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  8. Harry McGreggor of Texas

    The war in Afghanistan was over in 2 months (Russians failed for 10 years) and the war in Iraq lasted just over 2 weeks. Our troop shave done an OUTSTANDING JOB and I for one am getting tired of the stupid idea that America's image is damaged. Mora mar Qaddafi disarmed because he saw we meant business! Iran is doing little more than saber rattling since we have troops so close to him.

    Where does CNN and Democrats get the idea that the best foreign policy is to it back and let things happen? If Obama is elected then all the sacrifices of our troops to date will be lost.

    May 21, 2008 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  9. KO

    Honestly, I don't knoow how John McCain can win the argument on foreign policy – his policy is the same as Bush's and that what got us where we are today. Now Obama may say some tihings now, and then change if he is actually elected.

    I don't think McCain is going to change much from what George W. Bush has done.

    May 21, 2008 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  10. Ameriforums

    Why do we care what Hagel has to say? This I do not understand.

    May 21, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  11. Puppet

    McCain is a puppet for the lobbyists????

    Uh huh...and Obama is a puppet for the unions.

    Nuff said....

    May 21, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  12. NO-BAMA

    WHAT A JOKE....


    May 21, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  13. SMART 1

    Oh BOY !!!!! Here we go . Does anyone realize that McSame doesn't have a :

    Foreign policy=0
    Economic Policy=0
    Home Foreclosure Policy=0
    Social Security Policy=0

    He does have a:
    Tax Policy= more Tax breaks for the Rich( like his filthy rich WIFE!)
    Gun Policy= more guns on the streets on the streets to kill innocent children( Columbine, Univ of Virginia)
    War Policy= Stay the course in Iraq to kill 400 more of our Families,spend billions more. While our Economy is being slaughtered !!!!


    CNN please post :).

    May 21, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  14. R1100RT in VA

    McCain is a warmonger, plain and simple. His trigger finger is very itchy regarding Iran and is likely to be pulled January 21 if he's elected president.

    May 21, 2008 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  15. David, Silver Spring, MD

    Hey alex richards, on behalf of the Democratic party I accept the trade. Hope you enjoy your "Joementum."

    I don't know Hagel's policy positions, but I applaud his honesty and willingness to follow the argument wherever it leads him. I hope to see him endorsing Obama soon.

    May 21, 2008 11:45 am at 11:45 am |

    Sen. Obama's
    message has been change, from the partisianship of the last 8 years, I think Sen. Hagel would be great for VP, this would help with Sen. Clinton's base hard working, white people. Sen. Hagel has great record in foreign affairs. This guy was
    not fooled by President Bush going in to Iraq to distract the American people from Osama Bin Laden, who by the way is still at large and sending his hate filled messages, so I ask you after 8 years are we any safer? I read a blog here that stated that Sen. Obama was on the sidelines when he opposed the war, that just goes to show even from the side lines Sen. Obama made a better judgement call than Sen. Clinton with all her information provided by Bush. Sen. Obama and Sen. Hagel would be a great ticket.

    Obama / Hagel in the fall!

    May 21, 2008 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  17. ConcernedRepublican

    I've always agreed with Chuck Hagel on Iraq, call me a dissatisfied Republican. John McCain is pandering to his "base" too much. All the pundits say he has to, but I disagree. I don't think McCain is as extreme and hawkish as he is sounding. Our foreign policy should be based on what is good solely for Americans now and in the future. McCain has the guts on many issues to call it like he sees it (environment, job retraining for lost Detroit jobs, calling Russia to task), but he is coming off as too extreme in the Mideast (and foreign affairs should be his strongpoint). I believe their is a disconnect between how he is coming off and what he would actually do as President. I highly doubt a President John McCain would have gone in to Iraq as there was no need. This Iraq fiasco is solely President Bush's doing and unique to his presidency, but McCain wants us to come out on top with our prestige intact, and it has much to do with Vietnam experience. There probably isn't a huge difference between what a President McCain and what a President Obama would do in Iraq at the end of the day. I would prefer Obama's way, but that won't make me vote for him (yet).

    May 21, 2008 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  18. bitter_in_pa

    McCain needs money if he hopes to compete against Obama... maybe he's a little to the right of where he wants to be so he can get some financial support from conservatives who really don't like him much. Once he gets a few bucks in his pocket he will hopefully move back toward the more centrist position he's been in for much of his career. He's a good man... maybe not a good candidate... but I don't think he'll be pushed around by the party as much if he can get some momentum on issues that matter to him. But for that he needs cash... like everyone else.

    May 21, 2008 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  19. TEXAN

    Great Senator Chuck I saw you in the Colbert Report and I just love the way you see thinks, and it will be very important that you spread the word around Republicans... 🙂 THANKS!

    To the people saying that HRC has the majority of the popular vote...Again their math is wrong....Caucuses do not count for you, so you are not counting all the states with primaries won by Obama, Florida and Michigan broke the rules so those votes do not count, and if Michigan will count that means that we need to deduct the votes (46-47%) against her. the 46-47% against her must tell you Something!

    OBAMA 08"/Webb, Clark or Hagel as VP

    May 21, 2008 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  20. Kate supporter

    Kate, I agree with you. You've said it all.

    May 21, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  21. Chris

    McCain temper issues and foreign relations = not good for the USA

    May 21, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  22. Lori - Austin, TX

    As a former Cornhusker (Nebraskan) – THANK YOU CHUCK!! I had voted for him in Nebraska for this very reason. He doesn't BS anything and he is a good honest man. He does and says what is right.

    Go Obama!

    May 21, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  23. Steve, Madison WI

    McCain was one of 2 politicians who held my highest regard for never pandering and always being consistent – voting for what's right vs. what his party necessarily wanted.

    He lost that respect with me when he started morhing into Bush (the very man who screwed him out of the nomination 8 years ago). The only remaining politician who can command this respect from me is Sen. Russ Feingold. He is not afraid to go against the party or the mood of the minute and he actually reads through a bill before voting on it.

    Case in point – he was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act – God bless him!

    May 21, 2008 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  24. Mark

    Hagel is a good man. He puts the interest of America above the party line.

    May 21, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  25. Jonathan Lawson

    Senator Hagel is an intelligent, thoughtful, aware Republican, something that's becoming an endangered species. He does NOT talk about Senator McCain from a position of disrespect, but rather as someone who is a colleague, knows him quite well, and considers himself a friend. Perhaps people could stow their knee-jerk reactions long enough to listen to what he is saying.

    May 21, 2008 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
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