January 7th, 2013
01:08 PM ET
9 years ago

Administration official defends Hagel from GOP criticism

Washington (CNN) - A senior administration official offered some sharp pushback Monday on Sen. Lindsey Graham's comments about the president's choice in Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary.

Graham made headlines Sunday when he blasted Hagel as an "in-your-face" choice during an interview on CNN's "State of the Union." The South Carolina senator labeled Hagel a "controversial" pick by President Obama and didn't rule out staging a filibuster to prevent a vote on Hagel's nomination.

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"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.

Hagel, who served as a Republican senator from Nebraska, has taken heat for going against those in his own party on matters of foreign policy. He's known for opposing troop surges in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as opposing unilateral sanctions against Iran.

A senior administration official expressed doubt that Graham's comments will likely turn into action during the Senate confirmation hearings.

"It's one thing to posture on a talk show, it's another thing to look a two-term Senator in the eye…and say I'm voting against you because you turned against the war in Iraq," the official said.

Were the Republicans to block the nomination, the official continued, it would reflect "a party this so far in the wilderness, I don't see them getting out soon."

On Iran, the official noted that Hagel has opposed unilateral sanctions as a principle, but that he has supported multilateral sanctions on Iran.

Graham wasn't the only senator voicing concern on Sunday. Though softer in his tone, McConnell said Hagel would get a "thorough vetting" during confirmation hearings.

"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."

The official noted McConnell's 2008 floor speech recognizing Hagel's retirement, in which McConnell said Hagel had a "clear voice on foreign policy and national security" and credited him "as a leading voice in foreign affairs."

"A lot of these guys gave wonderful quotes about (Hagel) when he retired," the source said.

Filed under: Chuck Hagel • Department of Defense
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Donna

    It is pretty clear that Chuck Hagel made very few friends while he was in the Senate.

    Obama is nominating a Republican for Secretary of Defense for one reason and one reason alone, so he can use them to implement his devastating military cuts and then point ot them and say the cuts were backed up by a Republican. Chuck Hagel will be nothing but a handy little pawn for Obama and the Democrats. He's an idiot for accepting the position and giving Obama and the Democrats this cover.

    January 7, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  2. Woman In California

    The South Carolina senator labeled Hagel a "controversial" pick by President Obama

    All the president's picks are "controversial" unless the republicans can somehow use it to their advantage. I will be watching to see how far they go to derail this nomination. Somehow, I get the feeling Chuck Hagel is no Susan Rice and will not let them tear him apart. One can only hope.

    January 7, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  3. Ferret out the BS

    There are some zealots in the GOP caucus that appear to be atagonistic to the administration simply to be atagonistic. As a taxpayer and citizen I would hope that our elected representatives would perform a bit more critical examination of their rhetoric and tone it down a bit. This sabre rattling does nothing but exhibit the childish behavior of a bully and most of the Americans I know are sick and tired of it. Lindsey Graham is a poor example of a representative of his constituents and America if he does nothing but shoot his mouth off like a spoiled child everytime the administration puts up an appointment to fill a position before a thorough vetting is accomplished.

    January 7, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    "The South Carolina senator labeled Hagel a "controversial" pick by President Obama and didn't rule out staging a filibuster to prevent a vote on Hagel's nomination."

    Of course...anything a black Dem POTUS does is inherently controversial as far as they're concerned. Obama could walk on water and you'd hear only two things about it from the GOP:

    "What...he can't fly?" and

    "See...I told you 'they' can't swim."

    January 7, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  5. simp

    Lindsey graham needs to shut up and stop whinning about everything this President does. He is such a hateful old man and I for one hope he is up for reelection in his state so he can get out of the way and let goverment work, this is why there needs to be a term limit for dinosours like this idiot.

    January 7, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  6. norma jean

    The Republicans have a standard move for everything............When in doubt.... "FILIBUSTER....." This may be changed in the future when it becomes necessary for the complainer to stand and talk about the problem instead of just voting against it..."Remember...Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" ? Well that procedure for filibustering is being thought about and could become a necessity!!!! Sorry Repubs!!!

    January 7, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  7. plain&simple

    Hagel is a true patriot,serving his country in difficult times. Willingly taking the criticisms directed at him from chicken hawks.....

    January 7, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  8. Paoulo

    Administration can just use their own glowing words about Hagel against them. Whey would he be wonderful then, and weak now? Ugh, what a simplistic, unthinking organization Congress is! I guess Graham is the latest attack dog for GOP's unwavering fight to make Obama a one term president.

    January 7, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  9. Wake up People!

    Alright Sniffitt. Once again you made me snort Coca-Cola from laughing so hard. You really ought to warn people.....

    I agree wholeheartedly. I once posted if President Obama were to cure cancer, the first thing the GOP would say is..... Couldn't he have done it sooner??

    January 7, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  10. Sam

    Israel does not control this nation. The American people do. Israel has used us for way too many years and still cannot agree on a Israel and Palestine agreement. Israel continues to clog the talks. To those lawmakers who allow Israel more voice then they do the American people, they need to rethink their positions. Graham and McCain and other Republicans give voice to Israel then they do us.

    January 7, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  11. K. in Miami

    I have a feeling that the way the modern Republican behaves (Very Predictable) that if the President nominated "Rush Limbaugh" for Secretary of Defense the average Republican would do what they do in very predictable fashion and oppose the nomination......!

    When you become "PREDICTABLE" and reactionary, it really takes the legitamacy out of your argument.....

    January 7, 2013 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  12. GI Joe

    I'm beginning to think that McCain is just a bitter old jealous man that crashed planes and was captured and not ever a hero at all. He is envious of anyone that accomplishes more than he ever did, and that idiot from SC follows with his nose up John's butt.

    January 7, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  13. California Gary

    "Can't swim"........that's funny stuff sniffit.......really funny! Graham is showing himself to be a real lightweight lately.....not sure anyone takes him seriously anymore (if they ever did).

    January 7, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  14. Ferret out the BS

    Lindsey Graham is a putz!

    January 7, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  15. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Graham and old man McCain are such a waste of time and taxpayers money, nobody wants them for nothing and they both prove over and over again why they aren't worthy of nothing.

    January 7, 2013 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  16. sonny chapman

    Lindsey Graham: Another tough talking Repub. that never saw combat. Will we never run out of these guys ?

    January 7, 2013 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  17. Larry in Houston

    @Donna @ 1:19 pm – after reading Your Comment, Don't you think Obama is "smarter than what you think he is "

    January 7, 2013 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  18. Jack

    Are McCain, Graham, Ayotte and Collins having another of their POW-WOWS on this nomination, too?

    January 7, 2013 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  19. Rudy NYC

    from the article:

    "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.
    Graham wants to call someone "antagonistic"! He's joking, right? Every Republican politician in DC has been on an one antagonistic rant after another for nearly the past five years. He's doing it now.

    January 7, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |