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. NotFooledByDistractions

    I actually prefer a person that puts our country, the US above israel.

    At this point, isn't it a bit ridiculous to cover the republican complaints? If Obama nominated Jesus Christ they'd complain, just because he's an Obama nominee. Why doesn't the media start calling them out on their hypocrisy? The republicans sophism is getting really old.

    January 6, 2013 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  2. empresstrudy

    He hates gays and Jews. He takes money from Iran. He sits on boards of companies even the OIC inside the UN have to blushingly admit commit human rights atrocities. He's a huge booster for Hamas and Hezbollah. He has the worst reputation in the Senate for being the most abusive psychotic bully to his own staff. Many Republicans who know him say he's unfit for the job and can't support him.

    He's the perfect Obama flunkie.

    January 6, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  3. Brandyjack

    Singnce when, has the DOD become the DODI (DOD for Israel)? The question must always be for every Cabinet and Supreme Court nominate; are you loyal to the U.S. and its commitments, internally and foreign?

    January 6, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  4. I will wait

    The real issue with McCain and Graham? Well the get their money from Koch brothers, and Koch brothers didnt like that Hagel endorsed fellow war hero Bob Kerry for the senate seat in Nebraska.. instead of supporting the tea party backed woman who accepts federal money for farming.

    January 6, 2013 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  5. John Tighe

    Why does Obama still think that he can make the GOP like him by giving them favors?
    Why do the Democrats need to perpetuate the false idea that the GOP know more about the military than they do?
    All of this drives me to drink! I hope someone on the left will filibuster this.

    January 6, 2013 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  6. AIPAC is Finished

    Is there a member of Congress who is not wholly owned by the Israeli lobby? Why should that miserable racist blot of a state matter to someone who is supposed to represent Americans? And why do the sellouts in Congress keep stealing our tax dollars and sending them to Israel when our infrastructure in the US is falling apart? No more aid to Israel, spend the money building schools and hospitals for the people who worked for it. Time for all Americans to join together and rid Washington of the AIPAC fifth columnists who peddle their influence to start wars that bleed us dry.

    January 6, 2013 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  7. Mountain Glenn

    Hagel will cut the bloated military. He is middle of the road. We should not be sending aide to Israel. Their economy is better than ours.

    Graham doesn't like Obama. His point of view is irrelevant.

    January 6, 2013 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  8. Travis B

    Not surprising. The republicans are sinners of the largest of Gods commandments. No shocker at all.

    January 6, 2013 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  9. Mark

    After the GOP is voted out in 2014, we should be able to get something done in congress. The house is so dysfunctional it's pathetic! It does not matter who is chosen, they will fight ever step of the way. I don't usually vote for mid terms, but I will definitely vote in 2014 to end republican dysfunction in the house. Hopefully dems will challenge ever house seat that is up for reelection in 2014..

    January 6, 2013 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  10. Gops4daRich

    Hagel isn't an Israeli puppet. There is no way that we the Republicans will support anyone that doesn't surve a foreign master or fight for the rights of the super rich!

    January 6, 2013 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  11. FOX NEWS: The dung beetle of journalism.

    Hagel was against "the surge".

    The fact that Lindsey Lou and McCrypt's pillow talk has been interupted and the bagger boiz are up in arms, means that Hagel should wear the GOP obstructionism, as a badge of honor!

    January 6, 2013 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  12. txtruth

    Now Republicans oppose a Republican ultra conservative from Nebraska- the Party of NO continues!

    January 6, 2013 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  13. lloyd roberts

    Neither Lindsay Graham or any of the other neocon chicken hawks who were proved wrong on Iraq by Hagel can hold a candle to this decorated war hero who truly understands the military and America's role in the world. He correctly called the very flawed policy of giving Islamic countries a taste of democracy where they wind up voting for the Islamic candidate. he reminded the Neocons that they were not dealing with Western Europe like after WWII, but Islamic fundamentalists that will counter democracy at every move. Unfortunately, in his correct opinion on not getting rid of Saddam, because it would cause a Shiite Sunni civil war, he ran into the Israeli lobby who's only care at the time was to get rid of Saddam which backfired because, as Hagel said, "getting rid of Sunni Saddam would only strengthen Shiite Iran's hand

    January 6, 2013 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  14. albert

    The sad part is that the Bible clearly states that the physical nation of Israel are no longer Gods chosen people. They lost that right when they refused Jesus as the Messiah and then had him killed. The Republicans use religion to stir up support for Israel on a completely false basis. Their blind minions follow along like the blind sheep that they are. The irony is that; On the one hand they state that no one can be saved, born again, or otherwise become a Christian unless they believe in Jesus, on but then they claim that a people who collectively do not believe in Jesus, are Gods chosen people?!? Read your Bibles folks, and stop drinking the Kool-aide.

    January 6, 2013 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  15. BCasero

    Mr. Graham, are you a member of the Senate or the Knesset?

    January 6, 2013 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  16. steve851

    Hagel is a quirky, unpredictable guy. I would not nominate him, but he stood up to the neocon nonsense that still has too much sway in my former party. The GOP should let the nomination go precisely because of his independence and unpredictable willingness to speak his mind. In effect, Obama may be nominating someone who is a time bomb that could blow up in his face.

    January 6, 2013 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  17. Larry L

    Obstructionism is a full-time job for Republicans.

    The Israel issue is nothing more than more right-wing, Evangelical nonsense about some mythical prophesied battle between Jesus and the Anti-Christ. Why on earth would Jesus want to fight Dick Cheney? Would Cheney get to use his shotgun?

    January 6, 2013 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  18. JimmyC

    Of course they're preparing for a battle, whether it's good for the country or not. The Republican party needs to close up shop for the good of the country. They bring shame to conservatives everywhere.

    January 6, 2013 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  19. W.

    Hate garners a better audience than compassion. The Republicans can find no other avenue to vent their desperation than to embrace the hatred of those that displaced their position of power and control. "its my party, and I'll cry if I want too..." We need a new paradigm, a new direction in American mentality that embraces a plain of enlightenment through knowledge and caring rather than ignorant and callous animosity. There is a way out of hell, we just need to have the desire to find it.

    January 6, 2013 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  20. Raymond

    It is fact that jewish lobby intimidate lawmakers. Jews gets loud all the time to get what they want. No bias against jewish people here, but all I am saying is that they should not receive preferential treatment over other people. Since Israel seems so important, why not just move there instead so the people (including U.S. lawmakers) supporting it can transform that country into something they envision.

    January 6, 2013 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  21. Larry L


    Thank God for the Tea Party and GOP.
    ================================================================================================ Let's see... The GOP gave us the recession, two un-funded wars, and a completely dysfunctional Congress filled with right-wing radicals who take pledges to Grover Norquist. The Tea Party gave us a group of old, white racists pretending to be a grass-roots movement when they are in actuality funded by a few of right-wing, extremist billionaires who want to cripple our federal government. Did God give us that?

    January 6, 2013 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  22. Nodack

    LOL, Obama can't even nominate a Republican without them apposing it. I wonder if there is a person Obama could possibly nominate that Republicans wouldn't appose? I would bet money against it. It doesn't matter. They are going to appose any and everything he does no matter what.

    Same old same old.

    January 6, 2013 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  23. Gonzo

    Amazing how angry Democrats still are. Calling everyone who disagrees with their inept president a racist. They won the election because the Repubs had an even more inept candidate and now can't get over their good luck I guess. Well, learn how to enjoy it people, because it won't last forever. After all, arrogance is the biggest breeder of disaster in politics, and that's a quality making the rounds within the Dem party nowadays.

    January 6, 2013 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  24. Terri

    The GOP is never happy with anything. Seriously, this guy is one of them and they are already up in arms? Obama should just do whatever he wants to and ignore this group of maroons, they are completely worthless. Come on 2014, we need to elect some more new members to Congress.

    January 6, 2013 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  25. ProudDem

    Nothing quite as pathetic as a has been senator desperately trying to remain relevant! Lindsay Graham and John McCain lost all credibility after the Ben Gazhi witch hunt. I disagreed with many policy positions championed by Chuck Hagel but I respect him for standing up for what he believes. He voted for the war in Iraq but when the evidence proved that we were mistaken about weapons of mass destruction, he changed his position in spite of the harsh criticism he received from his party. I hope he's confirmed in spite of the nay sayers. This country needs every rational level headed person we can get regardless of party affiliation!

    January 6, 2013 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
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