July 27th, 2008
03:30 PM ET
15 years ago

Hagel says judgment more important than experience

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/27/art.hagel.reed.gi.jpg
caption="Jack Reed, left, and Chuck Hagel, right, joined Barack Obama in the Middle East."]

(CNN) - Two former military men who traveled to war zones with Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois) say the presumptive Democratic nominee is qualified to be commander in chief, despite his lack of military experience.

Sens. Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) and Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island) spoke to media this morning in Washington after appearing on CBS’ "Face the Nation." The two accompanied Obama to the Middle East last week.

“Each candidate has strengths and weaknesses, and experience does matter,” Hagel said. “But what matters more in my opinion is character and judgment. And judgment meaning who is it that you bring around, who is it that you listen to? Can you make the right decisions for the right reasons on behalf of your country and the world?”

Both Hagel and Reed spent years in the military. Reed attended West Point and retired as an Army captain, and Hagel earned two Purple Hearts fighting in the Vietnam War. Reed recounted the experience of traveling to military posts with Obama.

“There was something that was really dynamic,” he said. “We were trying to leave the headquarters of the 101st and we couldn't get down to the car because soldiers were flocking out of their duty positions to get autographs, to say hello, to take a picture, and it was just genuine, spontaneous and very, very enthusiastic throughout the entire trip.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) has repeatedly questioned Obama’s stance on the war in Iraq, particularly his opposition to the surge of troops instituted over the past year. The presumptive Republican nominee addressed the topic again in a radio address yesterday.

“Even in retrospect, he would choose the path of retreat and failure for America over the path of success and victory,” said McCain. “That's not exactly my idea of the judgment we seek in a commander-in-chief.”

Reed and Hagel also addressed a new ad from the McCain campaign. The ad’s script says that Obama “made time to go to the gym, but cancelled a visit with wounded troops.” It continues, “Seems the Pentagon wouldn't allow him to bring cameras.” Both Hagel and Reed said the ad is inappropriate.

“It is factually distorted, and it is I hope not a sign of things to come, because there are two many important problems to engage at this point in baseless insinuations about patriotism and about American men and women in uniform,” said Reed.

Hagel, a Republican, has not endorsed either candidate, and he said Americans are fortunate to have a choice between McCain and Obama.

“These are both smart men, they're capable men, they're decent men, and they love their country,” he said.

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (303 Responses)
  1. Monroe

    The decrease in violence has mainly been caused by the Sunni Awakening, the Al-Sadr ceasefire, and altered tactics of making your enemy your friend by the US military. These events were not caused by the surge. The troop surge has been helpful but is only one small part of the story. There was never a great battle where the US simply overwhelmed the opposition in sheer numbers.

    July 27, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  2. Concerned Canadian

    McCain also bragged he knows how to get Bin Laden but wouldn't reveal his secrets during an interview with Wolf Blitzer. This was right after he said he knows how to win wars! Imagine all those wasted American lives dying for these two causes while this man sat back and kept the answers all to himself....the audacity.
    I must say I was struck dumb thinking you all have such a brilliant man among you who knows how to solve these two pressing problems yet he just grins and keeps it to himself. He says if he were elected he would do these things. Sounds like blackmail to me............or severe dementia!

    July 27, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  3. ET from OMAHA

    Who do this pundits on TV supporting McSame seem to confuse? Not me anyway. I listen to the candidate not spins or somebody's personal opinion. America be smart and trust your own judgement by listening to the candidates not pundits.
    The future of your nation is in your hand not in the hand of pundits with personal interests.
    Hope this will help

    July 27, 2008 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  4. Sam

    McCain is a confused old man who likes war. He needs
    to retire. I think the man is dangerous. Period.

    July 27, 2008 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  5. Oregon for OBAMA!

    Voter, awww, you must be really jealous "little" man. I know these are scary times for you, don't worry, I'm sure someone will hold your hand through all this. *sniff*

    July 27, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  6. MurphyMorseJohnson

    With the nauseating experience the Republicans have provided, time for a change. Obama and his advisors' good judgment and vision have our vote.

    July 27, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  7. Deb, Allentown, PA

    These are intelligent, well-respected members of Congress who are providing positive feedback on BO's overseas trip. Those against Obama might say that Reed is pandering and supporting his party's candidate, but what excuse can you give for Hagel's very obvious support of BO over his friend and party's candidate, McCain? He is crossing party lines in order to give his honest opinion as to whom should be the next POTUS. I thank him for his candor and his willingness to buck the Republican machine.

    July 27, 2008 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  8. Elke

    Of course judgement is more important than the so called experience. Obama is too young to have the "experience" old Mr. McSame has.
    The only thing this old man is talking about is surge surge surge .....
    Sounds like a broken record already.
    Obama's explanation is making much more sense than the old man's insistence. Hey, Vietnam is over a long time ago, but McSame makes it sound like we are right in the middle of it, talking about "victory" etc etc. But he gives absolutely no explanation re. the meaning of it.
    I hope that's not the only thin he can up with. It is absolutely painful to watch this man speaking. Sometimes I feel sorry for him.

    July 27, 2008 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  9. 4 McCain Now

    What do you think they are going to say... he has no experience so he has to say he has good judgement.

    He has neither (with a Rev. like Wright and friends like Rezko and Ayers who can trust this creep)

    July 27, 2008 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  10. Alonzo

    Dan, for the record, John McCain did not bring down the violence in Iraq. John McCain has not raised a single weapon against an "insurgent" in Iraq. The fact that you would credit John McCain with what is going on in Iraq is a shame. One would hope that you would credit those Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines in the armed forces for bringing down the violence, and not some politician who is bound to this (alleged) "war" by his ties to its ill fated origin.

    If you want to look at past decisions, why simply stop at the "surge"? Why not go back to the origins of this "war"? John McCain said the invasion would be quick and not produce much American bloodletting. Those comments turned out to be untrue, and he is smart to keep them out of the conversation, and continue to focus on the surge.

    It was John McCain himself that said only a fool loves war. Well, go to youtube and watch the clips of him talking about this war in its pre-invasion stage and be sure to check out the smile he wears on his face as he talks about the war. Only a fool, indeed.

    July 27, 2008 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  11. Steve

    calling the "Surge" a success is like Bush claiming "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq.

    July 27, 2008 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  12. Ell from Tx

    We did not need a "surge" to last as long as it did. A Surge is suppose to be a short period of time so in fact it has not accomplished what it was set out to do. Of course things got better, but look we are still there pretending it will become a perfect union. That is just not reallistic. I'm sure the generals don't want to say much since Bush is still Com in Chief.

    2nd yes we have lost many of lives and trillions for a false war. It is what the country know and Obama, I even think Bush gets it now.
    Way to recognize we need to move on! GIve the USA some love and concern!

    DEMS 08'

    July 27, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  13. RyanD.

    Hey "Dan", if it was up to Obama 4000 people would have never DIED in Iraq.

    So, sorry...a touchdown in the fourth quarter of a 41 point blowout is not a game breaker.

    Oabam 08'

    July 27, 2008 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  14. BWM

    Will McCain give an impromtu speech overseas when he is president? Did he look presidential when he was overseas? Why doesn't he excite people like Obama? It is apparent that the people overseas know smart when they engage in conversation.And it certainly isn't McCain. He is redundant. If I hear about that surge again, I will scream. After all, we have become a nation of whiners.

    July 27, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  15. ben

    What war is <cCain talking about that he would rather win than be president? The Irak war was over years ago. What we now have is a police action to try to unravel the mess we made when we invaded an innocent country. How much blood shed was there in Irak before we invaded their country took over their oil wells and had their leader hanged.? If he is proud of that,and wants to waste more American lives, then as comander in chief, he must be thinking another(little) war would be nice to show the world we are a strong and peace loving people.

    July 27, 2008 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  16. Mary

    Hey Dan and other McCain supporters,
    The biggest question is if you think McCain has good judgement then why did he vote to limit the troops in Afghan and start the unwarranted war in Iraq?
    Shouldn't we have gone after Al Qaeda? Wasn't that our mission? If so then we had to get them in Afghan & Pakistan border. Why were we even in Iraq?

    By the way, if you think that the surge saved lives imagine how many lives would have been saved if we didn't go to Iraq? How much money would have been saved? Time saved since McCain wants to stay in Iraq forever?

    As for "Voter" comment, you happen to have forgotten what happened when McCain went to the Middle East. McCain looked like Lieberman's puppet. McCain made the mistakes then Lieberman had to explain everything to McCain!

    July 27, 2008 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  17. shep

    I agree with Reed. There are at least two too many important problems to waste any time listening to what John McCain has to say.

    July 27, 2008 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  18. Danel

    I question McCain's judgement for voting the war in Iraq. Why didn't he question Bush preemptive war then?

    July 27, 2008 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  19. Drew from Green Bay, WI

    I get a kick out of McCain. He talks about success and failure but doesn't define either one. He talks about the dramatic change in Iraq since the surge. Yeah, maybe violence has gone down in Iraq, but it's up in Afghanistan. The last report I read said that around 200 fighters overran a U.S. observation post and tried to take a post. This is supposively a common thing. Am I the only one realize that the surge has just caused the terrorists to reallocate themselves to Afghanistan? What McCain thinks we need is someone to confuse Iraq and Iran, Shiite and Sunni, etc., but I have to disagree with him "on this very important issue."

    Obama/Hagel '08!

    July 27, 2008 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  20. Wanting a New America

    Why does McCain continue to want a pat on the back for a war that never should have occurred?? Of course, sending more troops is going to be effective. However, why are we there in the first place? There were never any WMDs – remember? So, why do we want to stay there? Doesn't anyone see the irony in this? Perhaps it's true that Bush et al only want to stay there for the oil! That seems to be the only thing that makes sense in why McCain feels the need to want to stay there when supposedly the surge has been effective. We seem to get more and more to the reason why we went there in the first place.

    Our economy is suffering and people are losing their homes in record numbers. Yet, McCain wants to continue spending $10 billion a month – yes billion – on a war that should have never started and when we have an opportunity to pull out successfully.

    ...And McCain's only interest is in winning??? How do the Iraqi's win here? We've lost over 4,000 men and women there. However, what you don't hear much with the media is that the Iraqis have lost 20 times that amount. So, how do they win by the US pulling out in 16 months. McCain, it's not about losing or winning. It's about getting rid of your pride and saving this country before our children not have a future to look forward to.

    July 27, 2008 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  21. Matt

    With all of McCain's criticism of Obama's stance on the surge, and McCain's repeated questioning of Obama's judgment, can someone please ask McCain about his judgment in being a vocal supporter of this war in the first place.

    If this is indeed going to be an election based upon judgment, as Hagel (and I) hope it will be, we should at least be talking about the whole story of this war and not just the surge. Even if you are granted that Obama was completely against the surge (and by the way, according to Petraeus, the goals of the surge, i.e. political reconciliation, have not yet been achieved, so we can put our mission accomplished banners away for now) can we still agree that on the far larger and more important decision of how to pursue the "War on Terror" that Obama's judgment was correct in that going to Iraq was a mistake and that Afghanistan and bin Laden should be our focus.

    McCain was one of the primary supporters of attacking Iraq, while Obama believed that we should remain focused on Afghanistan and finding bin Laden and AQ. Whose judgment should really be in question here?

    July 27, 2008 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  22. HAKIM in Frisco, Texas

    To Dan,

    Have you ever considered his iniital judgement of being against the war in the first place and how most Americans feel it was a mistake to go to Iraq. Us not going to Iraq would have saved thousands of killed and injured soldiers. This whole "surge" argument is going to blow up in McCain's face since this whole week he said nothing in relation to his policies, all he did was distort and criticize Obama's. Folks want issues, people want substance and Obama gives substance and a plan. I have heard no plan from McCain, just everything anti-obama. I am glad that everyone is going to Obama's position on the 16-months (see Iraqi Prime Minister), the focus on Afghanistan (see McCain and joint chief of Staff) and to have some type of diplomatic talks with Iran (see President Bush). All these things Obama called for a while ago and McCain is just now getting on board. Obama is leading the trends and the discussion and has clear foresight and judgement to be an oustanding leader of this country.

    Obama 2008 AND 2012

    July 27, 2008 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |


    July 27, 2008 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  24. 17 year old future politician

    Dan: what are you talking about dude??? McCain's decision to support the war caused over 4,121 deaths...if you think that's good judgement and "saved lives", then your a nut-job

    July 27, 2008 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  25. Lee/Vet

    If the surge is working so well; why did we lose 1,000 plus soldiers since the surge? Had we left as Obama stated; we probably wouldn't have lose additional people.

    July 27, 2008 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
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