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. truthurts

    so in other words..
    "John McCain is being reckless with Iran just to argue with OBAMA..."
    "Where is the John I knew?"

    May 21, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  2. Nganga

    Hint to McCain, please do not take the low road like Hillary did. You will not only lose the general, but your good legacy too.

    May 21, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  3. al

    Well, Chuck Hagel is one HONEST Republican and when he speaks he speaks with GREAT credibility on issues of Foreign Relations and he too is FED UP with actions of the GOP.

    So this is BIG SHOT across the bow of the Straight Talk Express. John McCain needs to figure out what is the next move for him on this Foreign Affairs issue.

    Obama 08

    May 21, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  4. WIll

    On the back of the dollar bill, by far the most common of our paper currency, an eagle holds an olive branch in one claw, and arrows in the other. For far too long, it matters of affairs with our enemies, we show them the arrows. It is time to see what tough diplomacy will gain us.

    Didn't your mother always tell you that you draw more flies with honey than with vinegar?

    May 21, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  5. Jamal Kansas

    Mccain you are a loser Obama put a good canidate on the ticket with you if it is not Richardson Pick Hagel

    May 21, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  6. kate

    So pointing out to the American people that Obama, who is running for the job of President, is not experienced enough and a bit naive is wrong?
    Interesting Chuck.
    I thought the voters needed to make an informed choice, not chose who the Dems think they should chose?
    Wow is Obama going to be protected by his surrogates or can he speak for himself?
    Obama, you refused to debate Hillary cause you can't beat her in a debate. She shows the world your inexperience and incompetence.
    Wait till McCain gets a chance to show what an inexperienced naive person you really are!

    May 21, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  7. That's Reality

    What a joke. Hagel is a RINO so of course he's going to be upset with some of the things McCain says. It's no wonder Hagel isn't running for office again; he's a man without a party...well, I guess if he's thinking of voting for Obama, that shows his true colors. I suppose Hagel and Obama would be willing to try to negotiate with Bin Laden, also. Didn't either of them learn anything from Carter's blunder when he met with Hamas's leader thinking he could "reason" with him? These guys just don't seem to be able to grasp the truth that some people are unreasonable. That is why there will never be lasting peace in the mid-east. You are not going to persuade someone to give up their ideology/religion. Some of us have learned from history that there are crazy men who want to exterminate entire races of people. It's as if others don't remember HItler. Is Ahmahdinejad any different? Is Bin Laden any different? Was Obama taught that part of history which speaks of Hitler? or was that missed while he was receiving his education in an Indonesian school? Does CNN dare to print this? Or will you disregard these comments because they are contrary to what you usually post?

    May 21, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  8. Dan in Atlanta

    America is in distress now because it's best men have been shouted down for far too long, and it's lesser men have failed to speak up while the worst among us, those who have no scrupples but only seek power for personal gain, have hogged the headlines. We need more men like Chuch Hagel to speak out with truth no matter the political afiliation. I, too, have been disappointed at the tone of the comments coming from John McCain lately. It sounds like the same old Bush/Rove divisiveness and deceipt. It surely doesn't sound like the "straight-shooting" John McCain of 2000. I've been equally disappointed in the Clinton media effort this year. It has been divisive and mean-spirited at times. So far, Obama has avoided the worst depths of the Bush/Rove/Clinton/Wolfson style of politics. Let's hope both McCain and Obama will raise the level of discourse in the coming general electuon. America needs to have a good, honest discussion of where to go from here. Both candidates need to set forth their plans without trying to destroy the other candidate's character. America deserves better than what we have been getting for the past 28 years.

    May 21, 2008 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  9. Tee

    Obama will destroy him in a debate. No stamina, no money, no clue about economics. Just talk about war.

    May 21, 2008 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  10. Eric

    We need more people like Chuck Hagel in BOTH political parties. Whether you are a dem or repub, you should at least be able to agree on that. Here is an honest man who always stands up for what he believes is right, whether it is popular with his own party or not.

    Several dems could learn a few things from this man.

    It is really too bad he is retiring...

    May 21, 2008 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  11. Ray

    Hagel is very real. If McCain subscribes to petty and nasty politics which the GOP is itching to engage in he'll surely lose his bid for the presidency.

    May 21, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  12. carmen

    Good for Sen. Hagel for telling it like it is. McCain is a two faced liar and a mean little man.

    May 21, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  13. ALECO1 -----NOKOMIS,FL


    May 21, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  14. American Girl

    Great! Even McCain people know that he is a flip flopper and trying to get elected. This is ridiculos!

    May 21, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  15. MD in OK

    Why not talk to countries such as Iran and N Korea? Why can't we have the same standing with them as we do with Saudi Arabia? Why isn't Saudi Arabia considered a terroist state? 15 of the 19 hijackers were from that country, and terrorists like Bin Laden are still in Saudi Arabia. Without the support of the US, the royal family would be doomed

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

    McCain feels the same way about Iran as Bush, and probably would love to start a war as soon as possible, if the people are stupid enough to elect him. That's providing, that Bush doesn't start one before the election, in order to use his new Presidential powers ( Presidents defense authorization act) to declare martial law in the US, and halt the election.

    May 21, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  17. kaduke

    Could Obama win in Nov. with Hagel as his running mate? I wonder. It sure would be symbolic. A man who puts principle before party. What a concept!

    May 21, 2008 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  18. whiteloveforobama

    so macain also goes negative against obama ? i means why usa can t just put obama in the office automaticaly ? plz plz plz ppls plz usa make me more prund of this i love usa ? ! plz dont kill our chance its wil be a great message to world usa we r one nation plz ?

    May 21, 2008 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  19. shirley ann

    Mr. Hagel

    I appreciate your honesty. I agree with you. Mr. McCain is better that that. He must be a leader and not a Bush followerer.

    May 21, 2008 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  20. Modern Monkey!!!!

    Oh boy, sounds like the repugs are in fighting as they have nothing to stand on this year. It is an outdated platform for the repugs. You guys should review your platform and update it to the 21st century!!!

    May 21, 2008 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  21. Glenn Doty, Columbia, SC

    If Hagel endorses Obama, and Obama taps Sebileus for VP, then Kansas will actually be in play in November.

    If McCain has to work for Kansas, he's dead... That's probably one of the 10 most solid republican states in the U.S.

    May 21, 2008 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  22. mmartin arkansaw

    what?another crossover republican with some sense of integrity?proof of the 'uniter' concept.

    May 21, 2008 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  23. Kris from AZ

    Diplomacy is step towards more peaceful world. Nobody said it would be easy to do.. WAR just causes more anti sentiment

    May 21, 2008 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  24. Patrick

    I like Hagel, an independent minded senator something we need more of. He is kind of like the Lieberman of republicans, another man I admire greatly. Senator McCain is also in this mold, hopefull if McCain wins the presidency all three men will be in his cabinent. Presidents don't need just yes men sitting beside them all day.

    May 21, 2008 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  25. Michael

    Hagel is a republican...McCain is a republican...
    I guess I will have to pay less attention.

    May 21, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
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