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. Chuck, Democrats United We Stand

    Yes, the Republicans need to back up and regroup, especially since Isreal reported today that "THEY" are having low level talks with Hamas and have been doing so for a year now. Hmmm seems this all adds credibility to Senator Obama's position on open dialogue with those that are considered your enemy. Not only are the Republicans out of touch with Americans, seems to me there are a few Republicans, McCain being one of them, that are out of touch with their allies.

    May 21, 2008 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  2. Errol Anderson

    Chuck Hagel is a smart, honest man and I am backing him to be Obama's vice president.

    May 21, 2008 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  3. proud army and navy mom

    Mcsenile is another bush. hagel was right to criticize him. not all republicans are spoon-fed idiots. nice to witness it

    May 21, 2008 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  4. Matt, Manchester, CT

    Great, so one RINO decides to throw his 2 cents into the equation. His attitude is hardly shocking or noteworthy.

    May 21, 2008 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  5. Mo


    May 21, 2008 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  6. KIKI

    What a decent Republican Hagel is! McCain has no shame Distording the truth about foreign policy trying to scare American like Bush did in 2000 and 2004.

    May 21, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  7. Liar, Liar, pants on fire.

    Well...more and more Republicans are supporting Obama. As he has demonstrated, he can bring people together. Regardless of what you think about him, he has results of bringing people together DURING HIS CAMPAIGNING!. Results not seen by his opponent who boasts of being able to fight.

    Fighting doesn't always win the battle. Sometime you need to be humble. Read your bible.

    Many people have difficulty with change. Change is good.

    May 21, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  8. Daniel, WA

    Hagel, you go away or join democratic party.

    May 21, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  9. Redphilly

    His friend is afraid before November McCain is going to slip and call Obama a very bad name. I am waiting for that also. With his temper and Obama not "staying in his place", this should prove to be a very interesting campaign.

    May 21, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  10. Al-Houston

    I have said for the past 3 months that Obama should pick Hagel as his vice pesident. It would be historical to say the least.For someone who has run his campaign on changing Washington and crossing party lines to get thngs done there is no better choice than that.

    May 21, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  11. Marcus B

    I'm glad that someone with a lot more experience in foreign policiy is finally taking Obama's side. It seems like even the media was turning on Obama on this I think Chuck Hagel would make a great Secretary of Defense and I dare Senator McCain to start attacking Mr. Hagel on a daily basis. You can't really say much when one of your best friends not only disagrees with you and your President, BUT agrees with your Democratic opponet. That speaks volumes to Obama's new foreign policy. Obama makes a great point in saying that Iran does not pose the threat that the Soviet Union posed. That's just common sense. Iran is in pursuit of a nuclear arsenal, while the Soviet Union was just waiting on the OK that would have launched hundreds of nuclear warheads. Those are two gravely different scenarios. I also think he made a point in saying that he is not interested in a propaganda battle with Iran. Sure the President is the highest elected official in the world, but I don't think to touch shoulders with the President is any particular badge of honor in the international community. Especially not a controversial president like George Bush....or, if the world goes to the dogs, Senator McCain. I don't see any intelligable reason not to employ direct presidential diplomacy once certain preperations are made. If these rogue nations comply to all of our conditions before the President is even willing to meet with them, we might as well just have the Secretary of State send a stamped letter saying: 'Thank you, but as you have already agreed to the terms set forth, we no longer need to meet!" That sounds like a ridiculous request of nations that have very strong beliefs. It is going to take someone that is willing to at least try to soften the hearts of these people and come up with some type of negotiations.

    May 21, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  12. Steve A

    You will begin to see the defection more and more from the Republican party. McCain has not taken the conservative base, but is using his own Bush-style shoot from the hip and its not working. People are tired of the empty insults and insuations...

    May 21, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  13. s. Odom

    Thank yoy for the chance to air my comments.
    I first must say that I am in prayer for our Senator Ted Kennedy and I pray to God that he will miraclalously recover completely.

    May 21, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  14. Janet from Ohio

    I don't think John McCain is as intelligent as his peers believe he is. GW Bush was able to get through two terms with only a few functioning brain cells, so maybe McCain aspires to that level of incompetence. It would be so refreshing to have a president who could finish a sentence without someone helping him, or a president who could engage in successful conversations with leaders from other countries. Of course, I am voting for Obama.

    May 21, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  15. Larrywp

    Hagel ought to hook up with Mark McKinnon and switch parties if he feels that way. I am astounded at the apostate behavior in these people. These two men have zero integrity.

    May 21, 2008 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  16. K. Neeley

    Meeting to discuss differences involves no commitment on our part, only a willingness to listen and discuss. As much as I admire John McCain, his position on this issue is very disturbing. George Bush's policies have essentially shut off any diplomatic discussions that might have been possible. The United States needs to be willing to meet and discuss differences with any legitimate government. That does not mean we need to agree with them. Who knows how many lives could have been saved if George Bush had been more open and communicative.

    May 21, 2008 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  17. Jason

    Go get him Hagel! Obama/Hagel 08!

    May 21, 2008 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  18. Elly

    I say kudos to this man for taking the high road on his personal
    convictions in stating his concerns
    the congress and senate are there to serve the American people not themselves and their own beliefs
    This Administration has NOT been for the American people
    72% of the population are against the Iraq war
    Very courageous of Senator Hagel to speak his own personal convictions. It speaks volumes about his character!!

    May 21, 2008 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  19. Conservative -CA

    Once the "Double Talk Express" is going, you can't make McCain stop.

    May 21, 2008 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  20. amanda

    l agree with Chuck, l thought john mccain was been disingenous about his rhetorics, n for an old man truthfulness and honesty should be his mantra. it is disappointing that a man of his stature will engage in say anything do anything and speak from both side of the mouth.

    May 21, 2008 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  21. Obama v McCain

    Hagel is actually my choice for VP..with him you wont need Clinton's stubborn if-my-girl-don't-win-i'll-vote-to-keep-the- nation-just-the-way-it-is supporters! He'll gain repubs and Independs. People dont realize that this "base" support doesnt usually support Dems in General anyhow..he wasnt going to get them anyway!!!


    GO DEMS!

    May 21, 2008 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  22. bill

    Joe Lieberman hates all the Arabs and Muslims and only cares for Israel and the Jewish people. Lieberman is, in my opinion a devote racist and a sympathizer the Israeli agenda. Joe Lieberman doesnt even seem to care what the American people think, much like George Bush and John McCain. Israel is just as important to the world as is Iran, Syria, Egypt and Australia, get it.
    Joe Lieberman lost his democratic nomination and ran as an independent to lock up the Republican vote. Lieberman is a traitor to his party and seems to be on his way to becoming a traitor to his country.

    May 21, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  23. Renee, NC

    Hagel's name has been thrown around for Obama's VP, so I'm not so sure I'm onboard with his motives. I don't know him, but politics is politics and Barack has integrity. I don't know if Hagel does.

    May 21, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  24. Rodriguez from Miami

    Our policies toward Cuba has not changed anyting for over 40 years, so apparently it's not working. We need to change our strategy.

    May 21, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  25. Chris Banner

    With all due respect to John McCain, his recent comments were out of touch, especially the way he criticised Obama without any substantial arguments. And we all know McCain's foreign policy will fail as it is the continuation of Bush. So, Hagel was spot on getting upset with McCain...The general election is shaping up quickly and McCain will score low if he continues his antics against Obama.
    Obama dresses the issues without attacking his opponents, he only does it when he has to respond to criticism... I don't know why McCain is immitating Hillary, and he knows he will fail !!

    Obama 08-2012

    May 21, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
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