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. J1221

    Last time I checked, this was for a position in the US govt, not in the Israeli cabinet. Israel is perfectly capable of defending itself without the US having to babysit it.

    January 6, 2013 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  2. Andrew


    January 6, 2013 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  3. vidal808

    Yes, I agree, we should get rid of the Republicans one by one. The entire nation would be better off. I hope that the American People use 2014 to vote those obstructionist ones and for all out of office....it just makes good sense!

    January 6, 2013 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  4. Elliotu

    Anyone who gives a dime to support the Republican congress should have his or head examined. These people are purely obstructionists. They are against a fellow Republican soley because Obama wants him. This is wasting time and taxpayers money.

    January 6, 2013 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  5. Rogue351

    The ONLY Republican that could possibly be trusted at this point is Christy and that still remains to be seen. The next 4 years will tell, live or die for the GOP and the odds are not in there favor.

    January 6, 2013 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  6. stevetall

    These Republicans are so lame that will eat their own. Of course the Jewish lobby has thrown their weight around. Duh. That's what lobbiests do. Who cares if the Secretary of Defense is skeptical towards a country that isn't really trying very hard when it comes to making peace. It doesn't matter what the Secretary thinks. He's there to work with the President for the good of the country, and that's something that these clownish Republican senators should try sometime.

    January 6, 2013 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  7. Wise1Speak


    Name another institution in the U.S. where the Chairman, CEO, President or whatever; has to get permission from those in lower ranks, as to who can serve in the Leader's cabinet?

    Now I understand the opposition needing assurance that the Leader will not chose a murdering-psycho to serve as a cabinet member, but the blatant obstructionism of the Tea Party Republicans has gone too far. As President, I should be able to "Command & Lead" with the team of my own choosing.

    January 6, 2013 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  8. lee olson

    What do you expect Jewish America... you voted for this Jew-hater Obama.... it's no surprise that he picks a Jew-hater (Hagel) for his Cabinet. But I understand... Democratic Party first, Jewish self-respect never!

    January 6, 2013 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  9. Hillcrester

    I don't know if Hagel is a good choice or not, but he will be opposed for the wrong reasons.

    January 6, 2013 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  10. Jeb

    The Jewish lobby does intimidate lawmakers.

    January 6, 2013 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  11. villainbeats

    Wow these Republicans seem to be more concerned about Israel than United States. Perhaps they should put USA before Israel for once or they should move over there.

    January 7, 2013 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  12. Bonnie

    Will these GOP senators oppose GWH as the Secretary of Defense if President Obama nominates GWH?

    January 7, 2013 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  13. Bonnie

    I meant GWB...

    January 7, 2013 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  14. J.V.Hodgson

    Graham has so far as I can see lost the word YES from his vocabulary
    If he thinks the president is in his face what does he think what he has said about Rice and Hagel (before they were actually nominated!!) he's running a campaign to oppose the president making his own choice and worse still the media almost wants to play choose the cabinet... stop the silly game and wait till the president nominates someone.
    Guessing up front a list of names is not a scoop, nor is it being the first to know, only first to guess and thats not real news.
    Hagel is a competent choice.
    On Iran anything including negotiation is better than going to war with Iran.
    Israel is a stae in its own right and has been armed to the teeth by the US with very up to date weaponry and an Army that is more capable than all the surrounding states including Iran who do not yet have 1 NUKE Israel has 100 they say. Unless and until Hamas is recognised in negotiations the Israel /Palestine matter can never ever be resolved.

    January 7, 2013 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  15. That Guy

    Why don't we just annex Israel and call it a day... at least then we can collect tax money from them, since they dictate our nation defense strategy. Use the the tax dollars for a United States Israel Command military combatant commander. It's ridiculous that we have to knee to this antagonistic country. I am not anti-Semite but I am in fact anti Israeli policy. We should tell Israel what to do not the other way around. The Iranian threat is a Israeli threat thus somehow it is our.

    January 7, 2013 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  16. DaveLake

    What the heck is going on with Republicans. In the past I even voted for a couple. Know-no way-because that is their motto night and day. What about the American people-they could care less. Finally everyone should be seeing their true colors.

    January 7, 2013 01:11 am at 1:11 am |
  17. Andy

    Anyone who is willing to put the interest of the American people before any other nation on Earth including Israel deserves to nominated! Enough said! It's funny how Lindsey Graham is more worried about Hagel's position on Israel more than anything else. It makes me question if Graham and those other politicians who criticized Hagel are representing this country or are they representing Israel. They ought to go live in Israel and be a politician over there instead! Chuck Hagel speaks the truth, the "Jewish lobby" has successfully been intimidating our politicians to do its bidding. I applaud Hagel for speaking out against the Israeli lobby that has plague our congress from serving the interest of this nation before Israel!

    January 7, 2013 01:20 am at 1:20 am |
  18. Penny Wright

    When I see any Republican Senator, I think, Foghorn Leghorn.

    January 7, 2013 01:33 am at 1:33 am |
  19. Jean Sartre

    Hagel will kick Lindsey's tired old derriere, along with the Tea Party Republicans!

    The only word the Republican Congress knows is: "NO!"

    President Obama will get his choice, as he should!

    January 7, 2013 01:43 am at 1:43 am |
  20. bigfoot

    Watch out, Chuck. These traitors will attempt to demean your Vietnam experience like they did to John Kerry all the while extolling the "patriotism" of draft dodgers like George W. Bush.

    January 7, 2013 02:03 am at 2:03 am |
  21. David

    Old habits are hard to break. Why are the republicans irrelevant? Because they can't do anything without complaining.

    January 7, 2013 02:08 am at 2:08 am |
  22. Lawrence Little

    The best argument you can come up with is to allege racism to the opposition of this nomination? Hagel would be among the worst choices to replace Sec. Penetta. If the President chose Pee Wee Herman you would allege racism to his opposition as well.."Oh, it's the white man picking on the black man" cry me a river about racism in this country will ya? This is for the Secretary of Defense! And our friendship with Israel is important....Hello?

    January 7, 2013 02:13 am at 2:13 am |
  23. Steve

    Mr Hagel cant be bought by the Aipac unlike other senators or congressmen who not only were bought but also
    Sold their country interest to a foreign state.
    Mr Hagle work for th USA interest not for other countries interests .

    January 7, 2013 02:21 am at 2:21 am |
  24. Disgusted_Republican

    Graham needs to burnish his bona fides since he is in trouble in S.C. A Tea Party candidate could easily knock him out in a primary.

    There is nothing in Hagel's record that should preclude him from being confirmed. The Republicans may not like him, but liking him is not a requirement.

    McConnell failed in limiting Obama to one term. Obama won the last election handily so get out of the way and let him choose him cabinet.

    January 7, 2013 02:22 am at 2:22 am |
  25. Tammy Lozano

    Wealthy Jewish, Israels most wealthiest seem to back Republicans financially and secretly because they know Repubs have an insatiable hunger for war ...and since Israel is afraid of Iran's lunatic leaders, they need Repubs to make sure our military saves their butts when Iran starts up. Somehow I would prefer to help Iran citizens topple their leaders before helping the wealthy in Israel. The few I know here in the US seem to think they are better then everyone here.

    January 7, 2013 02:41 am at 2:41 am |
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