January 6th, 2013
10:41 AM ET
9 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. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    Pick your battle carefully, Sen. Graham. There may come a time that you need the President's support for something you want.

    January 6, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  2. Gurgyl

    I get the Economist, Bloomberg Businessweek–both the magazines Quoted sayin "the problem in this nation is CONGRESS". Very true. This I said long time ago. These magazines are one from London, the other NY.

    January 6, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  3. Proud Canadian

    Why does GOP seem such an extremist party? They are a party of No
    My prediction,they will be out of the presidency for many years to come.Watch this space

    January 6, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  4. n, tx

    Republican u Will be minority in the next election. U are fighting a no win battle with the Democrats.

    January 6, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  5. ST

    Does it really make sense to bring the past and make it the present? What Chuck Hagel said that time was then. I do not think he is still stuck in the past. If people can dig deeper, they can find some stuff Lindsey Graham did/say in the past of which were not appropriate.

    January 6, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  6. Facts don't Lie

    "NO Republican should ever speak ill of another Republican!" Well so much for that Mr. Reagan.

    January 6, 2013 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  7. PJ

    "....conceding that it was possible that some of the comments being used to criticize Hagel could have been used
    out of context".
    But, I (Graham) will criticize him anyway, because I am against everything, except myself.

    January 6, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  8. Ancient Texan

    The prez is insistent on picking fights. Hagel was never a conservative Republican and made quite a few enemies among the party with his radical statements and voting.

    January 6, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  9. RINO Bill

    I am begining to see what Gov. Christie meant about a toxic element in the Republican Party. Even a moderate like Hegel is not good enough any longer. Well I am a moderate and if the GOP doesn't want my vote, or monetary donations, so be it. The Republican Party is sick and it looks like those calling the shots are the sickest. Their base is shrinking and their candidates are getting to be more and more extreme.

    The GOP is in danger of becoming moribund.

    January 6, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  10. vic , nashville ,tn

    Next secretary of defense is former senator from Nebraska Chuck Hagel end of discussion
    GOP will lose again on debt ceiling negotiation, so they pick this news to distract their base

    January 6, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  11. Karl Jonas

    I'd love to see the President nominate Hagel, just to see the closeted Lindsay Graham get his panties all in a bunch!

    Hagel was absolutely right:

    1- The Jewish lobby (& I'm a Jew) has bought & influenced Congress for decades, blocking any reasonable effort to resolve the Israeli-Palestinan conflict. Whatever Netanyahu wants, the Jewish lobby will deliver, regardless of what's best for the U.S.

    2- The U.S. absolutely should be talking one on one with Iran. As the great Yitzhak Rabin told Bill Clinton, "you don't negotiate with your friends."

    3- Why shouldn't there be direct negotiations with Hamas? Israel is negotiating with Hamas RIGHT NOW, only using Egypt as a cover. How do you think extending the Gaza fishing zone, approving construction materials for Gaza etc. came about? False pretenses need to go!

    4- Hagel was absolutely right – the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were huge mistakes.

    I guess only two-faced hypocrites can be confirmed by these Republicans.

    January 6, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  12. Thomas

    GOP " Obstruction " , till the wheels fall off !

    January 6, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  13. Pander Bear

    "Well the President just handed us our collective behinds on the fiscal cliff issue so we're going to try a mess with him on the Defense Secretary nomination purely out of spite and who cares about the American people."

    There ya go Lindsey, Ted, Mitch, et al, I fixed it for you.

    January 6, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  14. Facts don't Lie

    well the Repubs didn't get to fight Susan Rice, they seem to like John Kerry so they HAVE to find somebody Obama picks that they can go after. Heck he could have picked John McCain and somebody on the GOP would have started a fight over that.

    January 6, 2013 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  15. jane

    GOP at it AGAIN!!!!!!

    January 6, 2013 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  16. plain&simple

    The problem with Chuck Hagel is he speaks his mind and has a good one! That's beyond understanding to to the senators bought and paid for by lobbyists.

    January 6, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  17. Yonni

    Chuck Hagel said "Jewish lobby intimidated lawmakers." may be that is true?

    January 6, 2013 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  18. tp1776

    correct me if this is wrong, but the Secretary of Defense does not make foreign policy. The President, along with input from State and Defense and Intelligence, makes the decisions. Senator Hagel will not make U.S. policy for Israel.

    January 6, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  19. znod

    Does the teehee party have to fix things so that the Repubs look like jerks on everything? Why do they have to battle on everything? Some common sense and restraint is needed.

    January 6, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  20. labman57

    Graham suggests that Obama's anticipated selection of Hagel as his nominee is a "slap in the face" toward anyone who opposes this choice.

    Translation: Any policy proposal or cabinet appointment nomination to which Graham and his cohort have voiced opposition will be regarded an insult to the GOP. Furthermore, the POTUS has no right to publicly support any programs or people that have not been enthusiastically embraced by the opposition party.

    Hmmm. What part of the phrase "Elections matter" do these self-righteous, chest-thumping right wingers not understand?

    January 6, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  21. roro

    Will there ever be an Obama nominee that isn't pilloried by the Republican obstructionists? They are nothing but hateful naysayers, who will do anything and everything to block all that Obama tries to do for this country. They should all be voted out next election cycle so the president can actually get something done. Goodbye Cain and Graham in particular.

    January 6, 2013 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  22. Jack

    The people who complain about the intimidation comment, what exactly do you think interest groups are for? Talk shows?

    Graham and his fake smile needs to go away

    January 6, 2013 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  23. Michigan Voter

    We should all listen to Sen. Graham. His extensive experience in war brings a perspective needed in the Senate. Oh, wait a minute. He was in the Air Force in Germany and was a LAWYER. Chuck Hagel received 2 Purple Hearts fighting for his country, while Graham hid with his lawyer friends in Germany. I vote for Hagel, everytime

    January 6, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  24. Rosslaw

    Not surprising that the rethugs wouldn't think much of a former enlisted, badly wounded, decorated Vietnam combat veteran. Its not like "those sorts of people" make up Lindsey's fund-raising constituency. Plus he did not engage in the delusion that the Iraq war was anything short of a fiasco like Miss Lindsey did.

    January 6, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  25. Ozzie

    Republicans just hate this country, the President, the truth, and all non-caucasians. They are little boys, spoiled, racist, and homophobic.

    January 6, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
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