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. mel

    I think the senator is right and think he should endorse Obama
    as well because mccain is going to do worst than Mr.Bush. He
    will hurt this country worrying about the war than domestic issues.
    Mr.Obama. I think will be a wonderful prsident for this great
    country america. The american peoples of all race should give
    him a chance to change this country in a new direction. If he can't
    he want be re-elected after his four year term. Where is written in
    anyone book that a white president run this country better. We all
    are God childrens and should start looking if that we are.This one
    reason for the problem in this country with ours young children,grown
    up continues to make mistakes. We can change the course of race
    if we talk about it more and try move forward in this nation to do
    God work and listen to his word,unstead of making up ours own
    believes about this country and Individuals of all ethnics groups.
    Wake-up American it is time for change and it start with ours
    government and than with all american peoples.

    Thank you
    God bless us all

    May 21, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  2. James, SC

    It amazes me how CNN, NBC, and FoxNews are always two days and a dollar short of what is going on across America. It often takes on-line news sites to present the real news before the networks catch on. CNN, where is the coverage about the lobbyists in the McCain camp? What about Israel' s government believing that George Bush wants to invade Iran before his term is up? Or about the fact that McCain was corrected by a reporter about his miss-understanding of the Iranian leadership structure which was in error of his conflict with Obama? There is far too much information out in America and around the world that CNN and the other mainstream network news refuse to bring to light.

    For example: The world's view of Senator McCain is that of a warmongerer, or that of Senator Clinton isn't much better since her nuke Iran comment, and that most countries are very positive and hopeful that Senator Obama becomes the next USA President.

    May 21, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  3. Freedom Rider

    If there is to be a Republican on the Obama ticket, I've always thought it should be Hagel. This just made my point.

    May 21, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  4. Jeff from Mn

    I agree with Hagel... watching McCain dumb things down has been tough to watch. I often wonder who those people are clapping for McCain and what the hell are they thinking?

    They're not thinking...

    I hope we open dialog with CUBA...
    I hope we open dialog in the middle east...

    May 21, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  5. keith North dakota

    This guy is a flake. I think he has been running like many other for a spot as vp or a cabinet position with Obama.

    May 21, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  6. Latigo

    Senator McCain is abolutely right in his criticism of Obama on Iran and also re Cuba. . Obama is inexperienced in foreign policy and like President Carter, simply too eager to trust America's enemies and believe what they say.
    Obama's policies will only get us into serious trouble and risk the lives of Americans both at home and abroad. You don't talk directly to people who have sworn to kill you and your allies and give your enemies credence and more influence unless you're a complete fool.

    Negotiate as a government, have tough preconditions , and hold a stick to support any carrots you may decide to offer. Otherwise, you'll end up with egg on your face. Successful Presidents know that.

    May 21, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  7. rdbtwthlins

    "likening it to meetings between former American Presidents and the leaders of the Soviet Union"

    Ohhhh.., you mean those little meetings between two SUPERPOWERS in which Reagan parralled Russia with the evil empire??? This statement alone betrays the depth of Obama's inexperience and lack of judgement. Doesn't America deserve more than just an ill advised Jr. Senator in the White House??

    May 21, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  8. Mark in Austin, TX

    "Hey, Democrats, lets make a trade straight up, we will give you Hagel for Lieberman."
    Done!! I would so much rather have Hagel than Lieberman.

    May 21, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  9. Anonymous

    John Mccain has no clue as to what it takes to run a country. For over 40 years we have isolated Cuba, and where are we. Israel has begun to talk with other countries. Is every country that does not agree with our philosophy is our enemy. If so, then we will always be hated by the rest of the world.


    May 21, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  10. midnight

    "Hagel has become an outspoken critic of the War in Iraq and he said he is open to the possibility of endorsing Obama's candidacy."

    wow! this is amazing to see republican(s) stepping away from their own for a change....

    and i'm thrilled to see a republican tearing into their own party's "presumptive nominee"..... it's about time! mccain is too old! and with his sick joke about bombing iran (and huckabee thinking the joke was funny), NEITHER of them belong in a public office.....

    May 21, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  11. Doug R.

    McCain is incapable of negotiating with adversaries and is wanting in terms of foreign policy skills. He talks tough. He speaks of bombing people and how he hates certain ethnic groups (he once stated he hates gooks). This is not the talk of a rational person. It's the talk of a madman or insane human. People should reject the lies and deceptions McCain is spewing out.
    FYI...Israel is holding indirect talks with Syria and Hamas.

    May 21, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  12. DannyCali

    The political calendar show it when he debate with Hillary Obama said when he get elect for President he going to sit down and talk with those evil leader, even Obama CO. chair said same thing in the interview. Obama still lie and flip-flop about his policy.....this is unelectable. Wrong
    to be President of United States. Chuck you not going to get VP for Democratic side please just shut-up.

    May 21, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  13. rabblerouser

    It's starting already. No one is allowed to criticize Obama; everyone must treat him with kid gloves, as if he'll break if he's spoken about harshly. We already know that he'll pout if he gets criticized. And then of course will come the usual label of "racist" applied to anyone who levies a criticism at the sainted Obama.

    What gives with this guy? Why is everyone so afraid to criticize Barak? Could it be that a new "McCarthy-ism" is upon us? If you dare to criticize the great Obama, you'll be labeled a racist and summarily ruined? If he's the nominee, we'd better start lowering our voices and whispering and carefully watch our backs...

    May 21, 2008 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  14. Arnold

    Syria as we speak has low level talks with Israel (via Turkish channel)...Israel for a year now is talking with Hammas....

    what is the beaf Mr. McCain?????

    May 21, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  15. swalker327

    Way to Go Hagel - tell him!!

    OBAMA '08

    PS - Why don't you Hillary fans quit slammin' Obama - he is so far ahead of Hillary (and her fans) when it comes to decency it's pathetic - he has given her shinning props from day 1 and all she has done is step on him!!

    May 21, 2008 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  16. Crush Rush

    Hagel doesnt toe the neocon line.

    May 21, 2008 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  17. David

    Thanks Chuck, for these comments on the war monger McCain. At least you're a bit more level headed than these neo-cons that have taken the GOP over.

    May 21, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  18. obama supporter

    April of what year!!

    May 21, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  19. Andy

    I wouldn't be opposed to Sen, Chuck Hagel being on the ticket with Obama, if he switches parties. If he's not willing to switch, then maybe a cabinet position. He is a great honest American.

    Sen. Chuck Hagel, please endorse Barack Obama for President!

    May 21, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  20. s. Odom

    Hagel is a strong political choice in my opinion to run as vice president with Senator Obama. Thank God for people like him.
    He has a clear understanding of the choices that confront us the
    American people and he is not intimidated to voice his concerns to
    other political leaders. I hope that he steps up to the plate and fight
    like hell for spot.

    May 21, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  21. richard

    compare how honest and straightforward senator hagel is and contrast it with the hamas comments of hillary and mcain then you will discover that you have patiots and bigots in all parties.

    May 21, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  22. Carl, Atlanta

    McCain is pandering to the neo-cons. He knows he won't get their support if he doesn't posture as a man who will "kill them all." It's pretty pathetic that McCain believes he has to behave like a moron to get votes from the least educated of our society. His only chance of winning in November was to run as a moderate, progressive Republican. He blew it coming out of the starting gate by cozying up to Bush and his miserably failed foreign and domestic policies.

    May 21, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  23. Dallan

    It is as simple as this.....When there is no communication, and demands a precondition is not communication, then there is no progress, ever. It is a standing principle. The Soviet Union came around not because we shunned them, but because we talked to them. It is a childish notion, not to communicate. The republican party which is purportedly christian, should pick up the Bible and actually read it...."love your enemies", Christ said, "pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you". Communication, communication, communication...its the only way. You concede nothing by communicating, you only open the door to understanding.

    May 21, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  24. Rick

    Hagel puts country before party, as he has often before as a senator. That's the definition of a statesman.

    I think we will see more Republicans speaking out about McCain offering up even more radical foreign policy than Bush. Rational people aren't looking for more war.

    May 21, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  25. Brooke

    "MCCain is too simple and naive to understand the complexities of the modern world." This comment made me laugh, thank you for the joke. McCain is anything but naive. If you want naive take a look at Obama. Do you think that the Ahmadinejad, Chavez, Ortega, Castro, the Hamas organisation, the Taleban, or any other person, entity or state who hates America and all we stand for will swoon like a college student when Obama speaks. McCain is a man who fought for his country, was held in a POW camp and didn't leave until the last of his men were set free. I don't call that naive, I call that ledership. Besides, I have to warn Obama and his legions of adoring fans. If you start to question McCain because of his age you will haev 80 million baby boomers (who vote all the time) up in arms – and they are one of the groups that has had a lot of trouble with from the beginning.

    May 21, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
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