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

Hagel criticizes McCain over Iran comments

Hagel is upset with some of McCain's comments on Iran.

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. X in Ann Arbor

    Hagel is reinforcing what the rest of us know. In round one of the foreign policy debate, Obama has beaten McCain.

    May 21, 2008 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  2. Shaka

    Wow. Can someone say TAKE OVER!!!

    That's not a good sign for the Grand ole Party.

    May 21, 2008 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  3. dan

    Sun Tszu put it most succinctly ages ago. "Keep your friends close, and your enimies closer". We achieve nothing by refusing to speak to our enimies, beyond looking like 13 year olds who can only disengage when talking becomes too hard.

    May 21, 2008 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  4. Democrats Unite Against 3rd Bush Term

    Hagel for VP!
    Obama/Hagel 2008!!!

    May 21, 2008 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  5. A.R. Wolf

    Hagel for VP. Talk about change!

    May 21, 2008 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  6. Tom - Canada


    As with Obama & Clinton, this is the main difference between the mind set of a career Diplomat and that of a career Soldier. Politics...don't you love it!

    May 21, 2008 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  7. Anonymous

    Who cares what Hagel thinks. He is a RINO

    May 21, 2008 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  8. B. Thomas Cooper

    John McCain is a warmonger and a disgrace to his country. His comments about Iran have been downright disgusting and pathetic. The last thing this country needs is another ignorant warmonger in the White House.

    May 21, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  9. Nevada Mom

    Hagel is right.
    While McCain has always been a friend of the military and he has certainly always advocated a strong force and the use of the threat of our force, he has never quite been so simple and arcane in his positions as he is now.
    All of this stuff about "not talking to leaders we don't like" is bull, anyway. Even this backward administration engages in some levels of communications.

    May 21, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  10. Debbie,NJ

    Wow!!! Bring the Reps. on. Unite the country. Awesome.

    May 21, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  11. al in memphis

    Oooohhh –what would Fox News say about this..... or are they still stuck on Rev Wright. This is a clear message to all voters (especially those stuck on "if I can't have Hillary, I switch to McClain").
    We should vote for the person who reflect the values, vision, and leadership that represents USA. I'm an Africian American who does not agree with all of Obama's positions, but I can not deny what he would represent as a leader for this country - it appears this Republican sees it the same way.

    May 21, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  12. ???

    Hagel should be McCain's running mate. It would attract moderates and democrats and if McCain starts going off on another Bush tangent Hagel can knock some sense back into him.

    May 21, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  13. NanaB

    Obama/Hagel 08!!!

    True change!

    May 21, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  14. Dennis

    I'm trying to read into Senator Hagel's comments to determine what he thinks of the general election matchup. It wasn't long ago when the possibility of him being Senator Obama's running mate was tossed around. He didn't reject it out right. However, he seems to be trying to shape the form of the Republican campaign here. Its very interesting.

    May 21, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  15. sheisone

    We definitely need to get back to the sit down and talk it out tactics that past Presidents use to do. Why would you not want to meet with & try to talk things out to make peace instead of making threats with out negotiation? That is why The US has so many enemies because of Bush & McCain's narrow minded policies. Goes to show that there is something to it when one of your friends speaks against you, and possibly changes parties.

    May 21, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  16. CW in DC

    I am just blown away. Over the last few days, there have even been Republicans coming to Obama's defense and backing him. WOW... I mean just.....


    May 21, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  17. Photon Torpedo Dallas, TX

    Very perceptive man. Senator Hagel is one of the more insightful public officials serving the U.S. right now.

    Yes We Can & Yes We Should
    Obama 08'

    May 21, 2008 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  18. Politico Junkie

    It's about time that someone with grit within the Repub. party spoke up. McCain has "lost his bearings." And I don't mean his mental capacity. More pointedly, McCain has lost his way. He is a ship lost at sea. McCain wants to be president so badly that he'd rather adhere to nonsense than to principals that he's espoused for many many years.

    This is political cycle is sad, in that, we are seeing people dissolve on the public stage. Sad indeed.

    May 21, 2008 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  19. OBAMA 4 President

    I'm so glad that his colleagues are reprimanding McCain.

    It is like he's possessed. He did the same attack on Mitt Romney before. Is this man mentally stable, is this how he'll attack world leaders when they come to the White house?

    This McCain guy is SCARY! Hillary is Evil, McCain is UNSTABLE, poor Barack.

    May 21, 2008 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  20. Mel

    Oh God forbid you should say mean things to or about Barack Obama. Apparently he is untouchable. Just for the record, I am a democrat and there is NO WAY that I will vote for Obama. There are at least 20 people in my family and hometown that will not vote for him either. By the way Obama, your playing in the big leagues now, grow a set or get out if you can't stand the heat.

    May 21, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  21. Lisa

    you should have thrown your hat in the ring
    you make sense for a change.

    May 21, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  22. Kim

    I used to really like John McCain. I told my family and friends he would be the first presidential candidate who was a Republican that I would seriously consider voting for, but that was a while ago. He's sold out and cheapened himself to appeal to a broader base and he has lost my vote.

    May 21, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  23. Rockets

    Interesting enough, I am a big fan of Senator Hagel, but am voting for Senator Obama for president. I actually believe Senator Hagel would be a great choice for VP for Barack Obama. He is a straight shooter who exercises common sense. His honesty is very obvious and an honest politician is worth his weight in gold.

    May 21, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  24. Vivienne

    I would have loved to have see Jim Webb, Colin Powell or Chuck Hagel as VP. But, I know witchy poo isn't going to let that happen.

    May 21, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  25. Paula from Canada

    I think Mr. Hagel is a gutsy guy and speaks the truth. McCain is like a run away train..saying anything.. again Post Tramatic Stress Disorder can make you say and do some "reckless" things..

    May 21, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
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