January 6th, 2013
10:41 AM ET
10 years ago

GOP senators: Hagel is in for a fight

(CNN) – Republican lawmakers voiced staunch opposition Sunday to their former colleague Chuck Hagel, who is expected to be nominated Monday to be President Barack Obama's next secretary of defense.

Hagel has taken withering criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike since his name was first floated as a potential successor to current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta more than a month ago. Republicans have struck upon comments in a 2007 interview that some perceive as anti-Jewish, when Hagel said the "Jewish lobby intimidated lawmakers."

They've also lambasted positions Hagel took as a GOP senator, including his opposition to unilateral sanctions against Iran, as well as votes opposing the labeling of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization. He also opposed the "surge" of troops in Iraq favored by then-President George W. Bush and members of his administration.

On Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on CNN's "State of the Union" that Hagel was an "in-your-face" choice by Obama. Graham didn't rule out staging a filibuster to prevent a vote on Hagel's nomination.

"Hagel, if confirmed to be secretary of defense, would be the most antagonistic secretary of defense towards the state of Israel in our nation's history," Graham told CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley.

Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican freshman from Texas elected with strong backing from the tea party, said on "Fox News Sunday" that it was "very difficult to imagine a circumstance in which I could support (Hagel's) confirmation."

"It's interesting, the president seems bound and determined to proceed down this path despite the fact that Hagel's record is very, very troubling on the nation of Israel," Cruz said. "He has not been a friend to Israel. And in my view the United States should stand unshakably with Israel."

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, was softer in his tone toward Hagel, saying the former senator from Nebraska would receive a "thorough vetting" just like any other presidential nominee.

"Whoever is nominated for secretary of defense is going to have to have a full understanding of our close relationship with our Israeli allies, the Iranian threat, and the importance of having a robust military," McConnell said on ABC's "This Week." "So whoever that is I think will be given a thorough vetting. And if Sen. Hagel is nominated, he'll be subjected to the same kinds of review of his credentials as anyone else."

Graham similarly said that Hagel's nomination hearings would be influential in determining the way he will ultimately vote, conceding it was possible that some of the comments being used to criticize Hagel could have been used out of context.

"But when you put all the statements together, you have somebody who is very antagonistic towards the state of Israel and the issues we jointly face," Graham said on CNN.

While there has been no official announcement that Hagel is the nominee, the White House has told some senior members of Congress to expect it, a knowledgeable source told CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

Obama's decision to tap Hagel for the top Defense post, along with his firm refusal to negotiate on raising the federal debt ceiling, were signals of a pugnacious four years ahead, Graham said.

"[Hagel] has long severed his ties with the Republican Party. This is an in your face nomination by the president to all of us who are supportive of Israel. It looks like the second term of President Obama is going to be an in-your-face term," he said.

Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, agreed that nominating Hagel was not a ho-hum choice by the president.

"It tells me that he not only won the election but he wants to lead this country," Durbin said, also on CNN's "State of the Union." "You know, sitting back here and avoiding any confrontation and any controversy is going to make a weakened presidency. He needs to lead for the good of this nation, and we need to work together and find compromise and consensus in both political parties."

CNN's Greg Clary contributed to this report.

Filed under: Chuck Hagel • Department of Defense
soundoff (220 Responses)
  1. RingOfTruth

    @AgrippaMT... I'm not sure where you get your information, but compared to the Arab countries, Israel is a saint. Israel is a modern democracy with freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, and freedom for women. I am sure you know this, so please educate us on who you support and why?

    January 7, 2013 02:48 am at 2:48 am |
  2. znn

    his opposition to the "surge" in iraq is somewhat troubling, since that strategy ended up working. however, i like the fact that he is an independent thinker who is unafraid to speak his mind, a combat veteran, and puts the US first rather than any other country (the fact that it is even debatable whether our policy-makers should be considering the interests of other countries in making their decisions is INSANE). i hope he gets the post.

    January 7, 2013 02:48 am at 2:48 am |
  3. bribarian

    Finally we get someone who might actually put America first. Go for Hagel.

    January 7, 2013 03:05 am at 3:05 am |
  4. CrisSF

    Chuck Hagel's viewpoints are long overdue, they reflect the american people, not AIPAC. Welcome Chuck, American needs you!

    January 7, 2013 03:10 am at 3:10 am |
  5. sparky

    their entire argument against hagel is EXACTLY what he was quoted on

    January 7, 2013 03:48 am at 3:48 am |
  6. neutra

    I hear so many people ask what does Israel have to do with the defence of the USA. First reason it does. We gather so much intel from Israel from the middle east. They are the only true ally of the USA in the Middle East. If it came down that we needed to do a military intervention in the Middle East now that we have no status agreement with Iraq we can use Israel's airbases. Israel is under attack of a madman in Iran and countless extemeists in the Middle East. These same extremeists that call us the little Satan and big Satan is Israel. They hate them because of there faith. And have for thousands of years. You can change the name from Palistians to Philistines its the same group of people. So yes Israel has alot to do with USA safety and security. Second Hagels judgement has to be called into question. This is the same person that would not call the Iraninan Revolutionary Guard a terrorist originization. These are the same people giving Syria weapons to slaughter the civialians in Syria. The same people restocking Syrias army with munitions and money for the war crimes Assad is doing to his people. So Yes his judgement has to be brought up as questionable at best.. Also these ignorant people that say the GOP is not backing blindly this nomination is because the race of the President is ignorant, foolish and partisan. Hagel will have a chance to give account for the statements he has given of the past. Just as every other nomination has. This is not the first time a nomination has been brought to speculation and question. To say this is just the GOP being a party of NO. It is ignorant to think so. Why not ask Colin Powell? He gives a bipartisian nomination is a supporter of the President and loved by many and is a Military man. He hasnt refused a gay person to an ambassador because he is gay. So come on lets use common sence and say what it is these are Sen. that have real concerns about a person that with his votes and comments that are troublesome to them. It is there right to question the nominees. The democrats have had the same concerns in the past when a republican was in the Oval office. So why not look into what this man has said and done in the past instead of reading blogs and taking the words on websites as truth.

    January 7, 2013 04:50 am at 4:50 am |
  7. Lizard Lance

    Great. Another Republican (Ted Cruz) who thinks that Israel should lead the United States. Since when did we get our marching orders from Israel? How about you Republicans start putting AMERICA FIRST for a change? What a novel idea!

    January 7, 2013 05:00 am at 5:00 am |
  8. Rolick

    When grown mature adults use words like "fight" and not debate or concerns, that says something about the people we elect to government. I'm so sick of the divide in this country that is created by the media, on both sides, for nothing more than ratings.

    Fox News, MSNBC, CNN etc. are not news organizations, they just give opinions, divide the people and turn politics into a reality show or spectators sport. They are neither liberal or conservative, they thrive on creating or exploiting controversy for ratings.

    In the end we only have ourselves to blame (and I don't count myself out of being guilty) for biting on the big juicy worm that the media dangles every day.

    January 7, 2013 05:07 am at 5:07 am |

    Please proceed unhinged GOBP tea potty. 2014 comes quickly.

    January 7, 2013 05:20 am at 5:20 am |

    2014 comes quickly for the radical extremist GOBP tea potty.

    January 7, 2013 05:29 am at 5:29 am |
  11. Facts don't Lie

    I think by now if President Obama had picked Graham himself, Graham may have attacked him for it. Let's be honest the next four years no matter what Obama does the sore loser pouting right wing will be against it because that is all they have. Heck just wait until the president has to make the next SCOTUS pick. Maybe all this could lessen if in 2014 we can get more of these do nothing, non-governing obstructionist tea party crybabies out of congress.

    January 7, 2013 06:04 am at 6:04 am |
  12. MrRickinNH

    Just why is it important to pick a secretary that Israel likes... Hagel is right about Israel... they keep trying to rattle our sabers trying to get us to do their dirty work. The most warlike nation there is... Past time to cut them from the feeding trough!!

    January 7, 2013 06:12 am at 6:12 am |
  13. Thomas

    Saying that politicians are influenced or intimidated by the perceived power of certain lobbying groups is like saying the sky is blue. Is this a way Republicans think they can curry favor from the Jewish vote?

    January 7, 2013 06:15 am at 6:15 am |
  14. jnpa

    What does one expect from a politcal party that filibusters their own bill?

    January 7, 2013 06:21 am at 6:21 am |
  15. remy

    Why do we have this blind alligence to Israel. Are we their keeper? Israel acts as if we owe them something and Hagel's point is made by the lunatics that want to filibuster him. American politicians kowtow to the whim of the Israeli leadership, no doubt.
    BTW, why can't Obama nominate a Dem for SOD? This just reinforces that Dems are too weak on defense and that only a Republipuke can run Defense, it is BS.

    January 7, 2013 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  16. Dan

    The GOP is going to obstruct something? Shocker.

    January 7, 2013 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  17. rs

    More obstructionism from the GOP. Are these people too dense to notice Hagel is one of their own? Or, does that even matter to them anymore?

    January 7, 2013 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  18. Michael

    What a bunch of morons. The party of NO is at it again. He ain't from Texas thank God.

    January 7, 2013 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  19. RINO Bill

    If Barak Obama nominated Kissinger, Rumsfeld, Gingrich or Cheney to his cabinet these current Republican "leaders" would still oppose the nomination ... not because these people are not qualified, but because Obama was the one who nominated them.

    January 7, 2013 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  20. The Real Tom Paine

    Hagel reminds them of their mistakes, so naturally they hate him. He is honest enough to see the GOP for what they are. For anyone who actually remembers how Hagel voted, it would be a stretch to suggest he is a RINO. Frankly, the GOP have become RINOs, since they have departed so far from the principles of their party as to be unrecogisable as the party that gave us the Interstate Highway System, built state university systems, etc. They are a party of flat-earthers who deny the truth even when they had previously presented it. Pathetic. They deny their own intellectual property.

    January 7, 2013 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
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