Senators gear up for Hagel's confirmation, many with questions
January 13th, 2013
04:30 PM ET
10 years ago

Senators gear up for Hagel's confirmation, many with questions

(CNN) - Now that Chuck Hagel has been nominated for defense secretary, the former Republican senator from Nebraska faces what many expect to be an uphill battle for confirmation in the Senate.

Hagel took quite a pounding from some senators and independent groups on both sides of the aisle in the days before last week's announcement, with many of them taking issue with some of Hagel's positions and comments dealing with Iran, Iraq and Israel in particular.

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But Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee raised a new issue Sunday, warning that another concern might be Hagel's "overall temperament." Corker questioned whether he's "suited to run a department or a big agency or a big entity like the Pentagon."

"There are numbers of staffers who are coming forth now, just talking about the way he has dealt with them," Corker said on ABC's "This Week."

Corker added he'll be meeting with Hagel next week and has an "open mind" about the process but cautioned he still has many questions.

Critics have also attacked Hagel for opposing the troop surge in Iraq and making comments referring to the "Jewish lobby," prompting some to accuse Hagel of anti-Semitism.

Hagel has attempted to set the record straight in the media and in conversations with Pentagon staffers. In particular, he has said those who criticize him for opposing unilateral sanctions against Iran have distorted the message.

"I have not supported unilateral sanctions because when it is us alone, they don't work and they just isolate the United States," he told the Lincoln (Nebraska) Journal Star last week.

Sen. John McCain, who also served with Hagel in the Senate, has been a staunch critic of the nomination. Asked by CNN Sunday what questions he has for his former colleague, McCain said he is interested in Hagel's "view of America's role in the world."

"There will be a number of questions that we have (about) some of his statements in the past concerning, for example, that the surge in Iraq would be the greatest blunder since the Vietnam War, which is clearly a bizarre statement," he said. "We'll be asking questions and we'll be reserving judgment."

Pressed on whether he'd try to block the nomination, McCain said "no."

"I plan to make a judgment as to whether I think he's appropriate to be secretary of defense or not," he continued.

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said that while he's not "comfortable" with some of the statements Hagel has made in the past, he plans to ask questions during the hearings and predicts that Hagel will be confirmed.

"I think Senator Hagel will be approved. I think the history of nominees shows, and I think his own qualifications also demonstrate, that he has the capacity. But I want to know his positions on those issues. And I reserve judgment until I hear his responses," Blumenthal said on "Fox News Sunday."

On the same program, Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire said she was "perplexed" at the president's choice.

"I think it's fair to say that if you look at his prior positions, that he has a lot of questions to answer," she said. "And, I'm deeply troubled by it. I guess I also wonder what message are we sending to Iran, what message are we sending to Israel?"

However, Hagel had a big ally Sunday in Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, who argued Hagel is "very capable of explaining (his) positions."

"I think he brings some unique quality to this job. He is someone who has been involved in issues of national security as a United States senator," Reed said on ABC. "But I think one thing that's terribly compelling - and it goes to his credibility with the forces - he's been a combat soldier. He's fought. He has literally walked in their boots. That, I think, will inspire great confidence in the military officers and enlisted men that he deals with, and women."

Hagel also got a boost from former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who said Sunday that Hagel would be an excellent fit for defense secretary because of his military service in Vietnam, where Hagel was wounded twice. He was awarded two Purple Hearts.

"I will tell you who thinks that makes him a good candidate for secretary of defense: the men and women in the armed forces of the United States, who know that this is a guy who will be very careful about putting their lives at risk, because he put his life at risk," Powell said on NBC's "Meet The Press."

But Powell said it takes more than just combat experience to be a good defense secretary. He said Hagel has the right pragmatic worldview to fit the role.

"He knows what war is, and he will fight a war if it's necessary, but he's a guy who will do it with great deliberation and care," Powell said.

- CNN's Gregory Wallace and Greg Clary contributed to this report.

soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Woman In California

    Just as the president won his second term, Chuck Hagel will get through the confirmations just fine and become another great SOD. There's nothing McCain or his boyfriend L. Graham can do about it. This job was almost tailored made for Hagel and C. Powell's endorsement helped seal the deal.
    Thank you once again, Mr. Powell.

    January 13, 2013 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  2. Larry L


    He has been endorsed by Colin Powell, the democrat wearing republican clothes.........once Powell has lots of respect but turned twice against the party he avowed to support and instead supported the democratic party.....I put no stock in anyone Colin Powell supports..........
    Colin Powell was a magnificent General and great Secretary of State. He worked for a moron. The fact that he doesn't lock-step with the mindless Fox News drones of the far right-wing is to his credit. You people need to listen to the American people who are sick to death of your antiquated, bigoted, and narrow-minded approach to running the American government. You want "small government" – as long as you get to control everybody's life. Can you compare your contribution to America to that of Colin Powell? Really?

    January 13, 2013 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  3. bonjourno

    i think its time the real people who know who they are to step forward and it is your duly responsibility to put AMERICA back on track and protect her from being trampled over by individuals who have no right doing so

    January 13, 2013 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  4. derrick robbins

    If Gen Powell supports the nomination, thats good enough for me.

    January 13, 2013 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  5. J.V.Hodgson

    Hagel is eminently qualified and the semantics of the pro israel lobby or jewish lobby is just mincing with words. How often do we hear that any politician has to be careful to keep the support of pro israel and jewish voters in the US QED thier money and power do "intimidate" as do the Gun lobby etc etc.
    US sanctions alone have never succeeded in achieving any political objective( c/f Fareed Zacharia analysis this week) So Hagel is right.
    This is political theater only and only wastes government time when there a more pressing and important issues to deal with, like defense spending cuts to contribute to avoiding round 2 of the fiscal cliff.

    January 14, 2013 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  6. tsm

    As an independent Powell is one of my most admired Republicans. I put stock in anyone Colin Powell supports..........

    January 14, 2013 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  7. norma jean

    John MCain needs to stop trying to interfere with everything the president tries to do....McCain is so yesterday and he might take a good look in a mirror and see that his time is gone...he is just a tired old man that complains about everything!!! "'GOOD NIGHT SENATOR!.

    January 14, 2013 01:30 am at 1:30 am |
  8. marita

    So, if I am understanding this correctly, a lot of our officials are 'troubled' + have 'deep concerns' about Sen. Hagel, but are willing to confirm him anyway by accepting his explanations!? He wouldn't be the first to stretch the 'truth' under oath! – @Marita.

    January 14, 2013 02:40 am at 2:40 am |
  9. Name lynn

    hagel got it going with them white house leaders an the republicans an boehner, because hagel is not taking side with them hagel is for right not wrong an they are mad.

    January 14, 2013 02:58 am at 2:58 am |
  10. tact

    Well Bob, when you can't see past who he supported and dive into why he supports who he supports, it becomes clear as to what drives your decisions along with countless others who can't think past party lines and see the issues for what they are. Oh well, a dime a dozen.

    January 14, 2013 03:15 am at 3:15 am |
  11. anonoymous

    What has happen to america? Before Obama became president lawmakers supported people based on character and content. Now lawmakers use party loyalty to disguise color of our president skin to disguise hate. Whom ever supports the president or the president supports is viewed in such a hateful way. John McCain and others like him have turned the people away from being united all because McCain lost the presidency to Mr Obama. His hidden agenda is not so hidden to those of us who still have a brain. Nothing can change the fact that Mr Obama win twice so get over it and lets move forward and no loner allow the hatemongers of the past to stop progress. Forward people God bless america and our president.

    January 14, 2013 04:22 am at 4:22 am |
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