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. lzh - VA

    Good for him

    May 21, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  2. angie

    DO YOU SEE NOW.......... All of the voters that are saying they will vote for McCain, if Obama wins the nomination. Even his friends and fellow Republicans know what a mistake it would be to have McCain as president. Let go of the hatred, accept the fact that Hillary gave it a good try, and support Obama. Otherwise, you'll have four more years of hell and no one to blame, but yourself. And guess what, Obama will be just fine.

    Do you really think Obama is putting, yes his life on the line, his family safety to become president of the United States, just for the hell of it. No, he wants a change and better life for everyone. All I am saying is give peace a chance..............

    May 21, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  3. igotnews

    Thank you. McCain's position on this one is absurd. Does he really think the only, or the best, way to resolve strife between nations is with deadly force?

    May 21, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  4. Veterans against McCain

    Please visit our website, Vietnam Veterans against McCain to understand why many veterans are choosing not to support McCain. He is not fit to be commander in chief.

    May 21, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  5. 60 YO white female , Springfield, VA

    Senator Hagel ,
    Please endorse OBAMA .

    May 21, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  6. Ding, Washington, DC

    Thanks Senator Hagel,

    Last i checked, Saigon and Washington did not have bilateral relationship when John McCain was released from the prison in Vietnam. This McCain (guy) benefted from the diplomacy of direct talk. How soon John McCain forgot this?

    May 21, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  7. Sheila Wa

    Not talking to those who don't like us will not make them go away. It only makes them more determined to get to that table by doing the very things we don't want them to do. Is this what we want? War is easy, peace takes hard work.

    May 21, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  8. sheila dudra

    Thank God atleast one republican stands for his principles than a party. John Mccain has to explain about lot of issues including the reason why he voted for war in iraq. The onlt good thing going for him right now is he is a war hero.

    May 21, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  9. Sean S

    Obama/Hagel '08?

    May 21, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  10. Cal

    Atleast some repulicans will see that words will go allot further then war.
    United we stand, divided we fall. Being a bully has been america's mo for a long time, its time to change.
    Other nations call us warmongers and have little respect for our country and its people. Its time we get some of that respect back and stop fighting a war thats cost 4000 american lives that is irreplaceable, and 10billion a month that we cannot afford.

    May 21, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  11. Rosemary Storaska

    Go figure....In Indiana Obama voted like a Republican and sometimes it's hard to see him as a Democrat? Well we now know O's only credential for being president. He deliberately voted against the war initially with this election in mind, while taking the Democratic view in other supportive legislation in what little time he was actually sitting in his senate seat (one year)?

    May 21, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  12. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Sen. Hagel is absolutely correct. Both McCain and Clinton have crossed the line when speaking about Iran and Iraq and it's about time someone spoke out. McCain suffers from anxiety to attack Iran and he is certainly very dangerous in this aspect. That 100 years in Iraq McCain spoke about would be created by him if given the opportunity to the presidency and I don't see why people can't recognize this.

    May 21, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  13. Alice

    Hagel for VP !

    May 21, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  14. Phan Vu

    Chuck Hagel did not understand the nature of the Vietnam War. He sided with Vietcong, like Jack Straw in UK.. How can he understand the Iraq War? He was an army officer, but he surrendered to the Communist enemies. He must disappear from the American political arena. He did not know the jungle guerrilla in Vietnam, and he does not the urban guerrilla in Iraq, either. He was a bad soldier, how can he be a good senatorf? Shut up and disappear!
    Phan Vu, Westminster.

    May 21, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  15. Surprised

    Good to see there are some republicans out there with a modicum of independent judgement and intelligence.

    May 21, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  16. Albert, Pennsylvania

    Sen. Chuck Hagel, Sen. Jim Webb, or General Wes Clark would be excellent choices for Sen. Obama's running mate. He needs some military experience to help balance out the ticket. Hagel's presence in particular may convince some Republicans to support Obama.

    Well fought, Sen. Hillary Clinton. You and your supporters have been very formidable competitors this primary season. Let's make sure we all come together as Democrats over the summer so that we can win back the White House this fall. This country's economy and military cannot afford another Bush-like term.

    May 21, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  17. RealityKing

    Chuck Hagel... Isn't this the same republican asked about running as Obama's VP??

    May 21, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |

    Hagel Obama VP. Not running for re-election. Bi-Partisan ticket. Looks good from where I am sitting

    May 21, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  19. jo

    OBAMA 08

    May 21, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  20. Environment

    Good. Glad to hear not every republican is just following suit.

    May 21, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  21. cecil

    Sen. Clinton baggage hasn't been on the table.

    Obama 08

    If Obama and his wife had the baggage Sen. Clinton and Bill Clinton has, it would have been a major issue from day one of campaigning.

    There white, so it's a none issue!

    May 21, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  22. C W, Beaverton

    Dear Senator McCain,

    Obama "doesn't understand the basic realities of international relations", but these men did?

    1. Reagan negotiated with the Ayatollah of Iran (gave him a birthday cake, in fact).

    2. Rumsfeld met with Saddam Hussein of Iraq (boy, that really turned the old WMD'er around).

    3. "W" Bush negotiated with Kim Jong Il of North Korea (yes, the pensula is safe now!)

    May 21, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  23. Barry

    John McCain's basic problem is that he stands for very little, therefore he will say anything to get elected. He can criticize Barack Obama for saying we should engage our adversaries in the middle east in conversation, yet ignore his own position on engaging in diplomacy with these folks. He can rant for years about campaign reform and the undue influence of lobbyists, then hire lobbyists to run his campaign, only to watch them start resigning when they are exposed. He can oppose expanded education benefits to Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans yet vote for every defense bill that comes before him. He wants to please the neo conservatives so he takes positions he thinks they will like, even though those positions contradict positions he has taken in the past. John McCain may be the worst candidate running for president since George Wallace.

    May 21, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  24. kaduke

    As FDR said, try something. See if it works. If it doesn't, then admit the failure and try something else. But keep trying. This Bush philosophy of "my way or the highway" was worth a try. Didn't work! Time to try something new. Give Obama a shot. If it doesn't work, we'll try something else.

    May 21, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  25. Randal NYC

    Good to see people on both sides seeing what Obama said for what it really was. Being open to a meeting with people we dont like rather than simply declaring everyone evil. Its called diplomacy, and its what has been lacking from the current administration. You gotta be tough, but you gotta talk too. Tough talk is better than no talk.

    This is kinda like how Obama took Mccains 100 years statement out of context.
    people saw though that as well

    May 21, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
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