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. Missouri Voter

    The human race is on the verge of extinction because of global warming, wars, disease, overpopulation, hunger, etc. The world's resources would be better spent working together to solve these problems than using them to fight each other. If we don't start talking solutions, soon there may not be anyone left to fight.

    If Obama is willing to talk with our so-called enemies, then he should do so. First talk to your enemies, then you fight if that doesn't work.

    May 21, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  2. sophia nyc

    McCain is old. Honestly, I can't see him leading this great nation.

    Obama '08

    May 21, 2008 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  3. Rick DC

    Hooray! Finally a republican who speaks the truth about the realities of the world and not give us political Rhetoric.

    May 21, 2008 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  4. Eric

    Wow, First the Chief Media Advisor steps down because he does not want to go against Obama and now this, it just shows that obama can unite the united states and the world. Even McCains advisers and collegues/friends know obama is the best candidate to bring back the united states to the people. Republicans and Democrats unite and elect Obama for the needed change we need in America and in the world.

    May 21, 2008 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  5. Joe

    wow – as a republican I think this is one of the reasons Barack Obama has my vote.. we need change NOW america. this man will unite all americans.

    May 21, 2008 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  6. Jay

    I've read that if Hillary does not accept the VP spot on the ticket, this guy could be in line as the choice, which would not only be a very interesting decision given that he's a Republican but also because it would show that Obama is not just 'all talk' in terms of unifying the country. That may be a solid decision, as one thing Obama will have to do is make moves that reach for the middle of the political spectrum, as fair or not, Obama has been branded as a moon-beam liberal. Hagel could be that 'centrist' that the ticket will need, although I'd ask those who may know more about him to share their knowledge of his track record, as I am curious.

    May 21, 2008 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  7. Carl

    We have troops in 130 countries world wide that cost $1 trillion annually.

    As great a nation as we are right now (and hopefully will be), we must face the fact that we are no longer the lone superpower, and many countries are starting to stand up and be strong.

    It was differenet between Korea and the 1st Persian Gulf War, because it was duty and responsibility to have troops overseas and to defend nations....

    but not anymore. Bring everyone home and let's worry about ourselves, because the next few years will be very deserate times. I am not saying I'm not a patriot or that our troops have died for nothing fighting two wars...

    but to save our country from imploding and to drastically improve foreign relations with some countries, it is time for us to bring home ALL of our troops....

    May 21, 2008 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  8. Bill NY

    After hearing senator McCain's remarks and seeing that he actually has a chance to win the general election leads me to believe that the electorate in this country has an IQ of about 60 which equals mental retardation.

    May 21, 2008 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  9. Lulu

    This is what attracts me to Senator Obama, he talks real with people and don't just say anything to get a vote. Thank God, he sent us a person that will be honest. If America can become the great Nation all Americans believe we can be and all the world can see, we got to get back to basic truth talking from our leaders. The last two presidents have stood in front of the whole world and lied and now the world think of us as liars and this is so unfair to the American people to be portrayed as liars because of leaders that will outright lie for any reason. It is time for America to get back to being a country that we can be proud of. An American where the people are represented by leaders that are honest, smart and can take care of business. So, Senator McCain, I admired you because I thought your were tough but if you have to make up stuff to get people motivated about you, then you are just as weak as other politicians that will say or do anything to win. If you have to stretch the truth to make yourself look good, then what does that say about you. So, be the hero you are and fight fair.

    May 21, 2008 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  10. Jasmyne

    "I believe that John is smarter than some of the things he is saying. He is, he understands it more."

    No he's not...

    May 21, 2008 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  11. ree

    There is both right and wrong with McCain and Obama. They do have different views but should step back and look at the whole picture.

    We don't want to go to war but we don't want to have milk and cookies with them either. We must be firm and let them know we are not going to stand for them walking all over us. We have been very lucky since 9/11 and don't want another attach on our shores.

    Obama better get some experience.

    May 21, 2008 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  12. Tedd

    Since when has it been wrong for a person running for office to point out policy differences between himself/herself and his/her opponent Mr. Hagel??? Obama has said time and again that he would meet with leaders such as Ahmadinejad, Chavez & Castro with out preconditions being met. McCain is simply saying that he would require preconditions be met. That's a policy difference, and that is something that the voters should be made aware of.

    I suppose that you have no problem with Obama and his camp pointing out that McCain is a tied old man or that Clinton may have womanly issues that limit her ability to govern effectively. Do those kinds of comment bother you Mr. Hagel??? No...??? I didn't think so.

    Perhaps next time you should do us a favor and run as a Democrat. Or, better yet, just do us "all" a favor and don't run for reelection. Either way, you've made it very obvious that you're vying for a cabinet position should Obama become president. If they should create a position of 'Secretary of Giving Our Country Away to Our Enemies' you'll be perfect for the job.

    May 21, 2008 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  13. Joe

    Thanks to Sen. Chuck Hagel for being a man willing to step forward regarding Sen. McCain's rhetoric attacking Sen. Barack Obama over foreign policy. McCain should be telling the American people what he plans to do as president instead of attacking Obama. All I see him doing is rigidly talking in circles and attempting to act tough. What he displays today may have been good in the 60s, but it does not wash with the younger generation. He is out of touch in this century.

    I do not trust McCain or anything he has to say. He is too rigid and appears to be scripted . In this day and age the American people need a president that is willing to be the president for all Americans.

    May 21, 2008 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  14. Tee

    The man is too feeble too old. The flip-flopping could land him in the hospital

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

    hmmm Obama/Hagel '08? sounds good to me!

    May 21, 2008 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  16. Berat, Park Ridge, IL

    No way is he looking to be on the ticket, but there's a rumor out there about Secretary of Defense. It'd be an easy way to bring in a liberal for Secretary of Education.

    May 21, 2008 10:20 am at 10:20 am |


    May 21, 2008 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  18. Jamal Kansas

    Obama/ Hagel 08

    May 21, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  19. Jeanne

    I wouldn't mind seeing Hagel run for president. He doesn't seem to be strapped by his party the way McCain seems to be. I think he'd make a better choice for president than McCain. McCain flip-flops too much.

    May 21, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  20. Oracle99

    I'm glad someone has a brain !

    May 21, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  21. Ricky Marlin, New Orleans, LA

    "John is smarter than some of the things he's been saying."

    We just had eight years trusting that someone was smarter than they sounded, and it backfired on us big time.

    It's time for all the neocons to admit they failed and join the human race.

    Unless of course they think they can win an election based on who wears a flag pin and when.

    May 21, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  22. SLKWLY

    Well said, Sen. Hagel......actually, I believe Sen. Obama has said that he would have Republicans in his cabinet and this guy would be a prime choice for SecDef or even a vice pesidential spot. He comes from the midwest, has impeccable foreign policy experience and unlike McCain has shown recently, is a true 'maverick', I think this would go a long way in showing how open and bipartisan Sen. Obama is and what his camkpaign stands for.

    May 21, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  23. F,M. - Orlando

    Obama/Hagel 08 Chuck Hagel would provide a great balance for Barrack Obama. This would be a tough ticket to beat.

    May 21, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  24. Jean

    What do you think McBrain Is Smart...? Come On

    May 21, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  25. Dan

    Just another Obama lemming who doesn't understand foreign policy. Of course, everything that Obama says is correct and anyone who questions him or has a different opinion should be ashamed of themselves. These people are ridiculous. We'll see how Hagel is feeling when we get nuked by some of these terrorists that he thinks we should talk to.

    May 21, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
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