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. judith

    Hagel for VP ?? I would support it...It's refreshing to hear intelligence and thought-filled commentary...

    May 21, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  2. Fazio

    Such comments from a well-respected Republican member of Congress like Sen. Hagel demonstrate how unpopular the Bush policy – and McCain strategy – of disengagement is among Americans -- even Republican. Let Sen. Hagel's comments be a wake up call to the GOP.... and something to consider: How can foreign relations have any chance to improve without broaching a dialogue? What is the only outcome of disengagement-only stagnation of relations.

    The Bush policy has failed. McCain's proposal would only ensure continued failure.

    Americans, please think of this when considering a candidate.

    May 21, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  3. Bob , St Louis, Mo

    Why don't Chuck Hagel just shut up and declare he is really a democrat. How did this guy ever get elected as a Republican?

    May 21, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  4. david


    May 21, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  5. R.I.F.

    And this coming from a man who knows foreign policy and is good friends with McCain. A good indication of when you are strong candidate and when you are making good points is when the oposition's close fiends start siding with you (i.e. -75% of the Clinton's friends). Also to note, McCain's chief media advisor is stepping down because he doesn't want to campaign against Obama because he thinks Obama is an extraodinary candidate. This is the same man you produced all of Bush's media during his 2000 & 2004 bids.

    For Obama's foreign policy
    Chuck Hagel
    Joe Biden
    Colin Powell
    Jim Webb
    James Baker
    Anyone with a brain

    For McCain's policy
    George Bush
    Joe Leiberman
    Fox News

    You decide....

    May 21, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  6. this is the Ticket!

    This is the ticket that would stand for real change in this country. Let McSame pick Lieberman the backstabber who couldn't win the democratic nomination so became an independent.
    We'll take an Obama-Hagel ticket. Not a dem and an independent, but a dem and a republican coming together to show the country how discourse leads to real problem solving. This should not be a RED vs BLUE STATE country. We are in this together and have more in common than what divides us. Let's discontinue the politics of division and vote Obama-Hagel 08

    May 21, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  7. -Jim-

    John McCain should not get the key to the white House. He thinks tough talk is the only solution to everything

    Boot McCain Out

    May 21, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  8. Ramesh Wadhwani

    Atleast there is someone in the Republican Party who is smart and civil and understand what need to be done to uplift the image of America instead of being arrogant and believe in going to War and not talking to Enemies.

    Obama should consider Hagel for the VP.

    May 21, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  9. mndem

    Obama and Hagle in '08!!!!!

    May 21, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  10. Jeff

    😦 Its sad when a good Republican decides he's not running for office again.

    May 21, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  11. Sharon

    Wow!!! I am speechless! Words do sometimes speak volumes!!!

    May 21, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  12. pam Eugene OR

    I can't see what it would hurt to drop a few more words and a few less bombs. McShame is too old and only knows one way.
    Obama 08

    May 21, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  13. Rebecca Phillips

    I have been listening to Senator Cliniton's remarks on the issue of sexism in this campaign. When is CNN going to report in an unbiased manner on this issue? Also, last night on The Situation Room, the commentators discussed the issue of race in the context of "uneducated white voters" voting for Clinton. When will you comment on the issue of black voters voting for Obama solely because he is black? 90+ % in every contest! Come on now, let's open an honest, unbiased dialogue.

    Race issues aren't one sided. Gender bias runs deep.

    Man Up or Woman Up and report in an honest, unbiased way.

    Or, is this state controlled news reporting agency unable to report solid, unbiased journalism?

    May 21, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  14. Chief lagosboy, NJ

    Call it as you see it Mr. Hagel! You Sir, are truly a great American! We look forward to your endorsement. Grandpa McCain is playing “The Hillary’s Kitchen-Sink Game” Its not going to work grandpa its not going to work……you sir are only a common “Warmonger” who has no platform to run on. A vote for Grandpa = Bush 3rd Term, America we can’t afford to make this mistake.
    SuperDs lets wrap this up, let’s put Hillary out of her misery.
    Congratulation Obama, we are almost home!

    Our President Obama 08’ & 12’

    May 21, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  15. BBB

    This is one Republican I will vote for anytime. There is nothing that sooths like when a politician "makes an effort to say the truth" no matter how much it hurts. Obama has been unfairly criticized, but the American people should be smarter than that. All I can say is that "Change is coming to town" people. Do not be fooled by status quo mongers.

    May 21, 2008 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  16. John

    He would have hard for the Democrats to run against.

    May 21, 2008 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  17. cecimor

    Hagel should put a sock in it! He is so jealous and angry that McCain got the nomination, he would probably vote for Obama, and then lets see what Obama would do for immigration reform. But who knows, perhaps I will vote for Obama too. My family and I are a long time Republicans, If Hagel is so much against McCain then he deserves a socialists liberal agenda. Maybe the whole country should go that way? These Right Wing, republicans are so against the regular people that they deserve to loose more seats in the Senate.

    May 21, 2008 10:33 am at 10:33 am |


    May 21, 2008 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  19. Go Hagel

    Come on over to the Obama camp. He wants to bring this country together and not divide it. Good on you. And has anyone noticed a trend of Clinton and McCain long time friends chastizing them over their rhetoric.

    May 21, 2008 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  20. Martin from Germany

    Poor Senator John McCain. After getting only 85% in Oregon and 72% in Kentucky now even his friends turn against him. That doesn't bode well for him in November (not that i think he as _any_ chance in November, given 8 years of Bush, but it would be nice if he didn't lose by double digits, something like that can crush a soul).

    I wonder what the GOP voters want. A second Ronald Reagan? Not likely after the Neocon "Revolution" that destroyed all values (i.e. financial conservatism) in favor of Big Business, orwellinan perpetual war and greed.

    One problem is that the GOP (as well as the Dems) is a "Big Tent" party. Here in Germany we have a lot more parties, giving a presumtive nominee better percentages from his people. Those who don't like him simply switch...

    May 21, 2008 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  21. George

    McCain claims not to be a warmonger yet he is willing to continue the Bush boneheaded policy of not talking to adversaries. If you will not talk then war becomes your eventual option.

    May 21, 2008 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  22. McCain Is Too Simple

    MCCain is too simple and naive to understand the complexities of the modern world. We need a SMART President.

    May 21, 2008 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  23. Harry

    Can only hope he gets through. People are beginning to ask just who in hell is this McCain. Where did the 2000 McCain go?

    May 21, 2008 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  24. Chris from NY

    I hope his criticism is not falling on deaf ears. Hagel is a war hero like McCain. So for him to be critizing McCain on his ideas on foreign policy says much about the difference between these two men and the presidential candidates. I think this is good news for the Democrats and Obama's campaign.

    May 21, 2008 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  25. mollygonz

    The whole thing about this is Obama never said he would meet with Ahmadinajed specifically..he only said he would meet with Iranian leaders. John McCain basically put words in his mouth. I am waiting for Obama to defend himself from John McCain's horribly distorted views. I am so tired of it. Ahmadinajed is not even the one who controls foreign relations in Iran and John McCain doesn't care if most Americans believe he does because that would support his views. That is so much like Bush having us believe that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11. Unbelievable.

    May 21, 2008 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
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