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. Bob

    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..........

    January 13, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  2. CBP

    Hopefully the hearings will offer Sen. Hagel a chance to voice his views. Unfortunately, I fear that the Senators will use their time to talk about their own views and ideas. The Senators just do not seem to allow the public to see and hear the candidates. They try too hard to be in the limelight and as they do so they just make us all aware of just how bad things have gotten in Washington.

    January 13, 2013 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  3. richeyrich

    Corker wouldn't recognize a true soldier if they fell on him.

    January 13, 2013 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  4. JR

    Powell is the example all republicans should fallow.

    January 13, 2013 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  5. Joe Smith

    Oh, I get it. Colin Powell should have put aside all of his considerable experience and judgement and just toed the party line. You realize, of course, that if he had done that, he'd be just like the rest of the career politicians in Congress who refuse to do or say anything that "the party" doesn't approve?

    January 13, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  6. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Good luck Mr. Hagel, don't let the haters bring you down.

    January 13, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  7. Bob

    Chuck Hagel would go to war only as a last resort........That is an old republican view, and one that is welcome to most Americans.....

    January 13, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  8. Vomitimous Dispicitus

    We have a sitting senator who definitely has a temperament problem and that is John McCain one of Corker's colleagues. What Hagel refuses to do is suffer fools which the US Senate is known for.

    January 13, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  9. 1stSgt-TopKick


    Oh boo-hoo... I'm sure a guy who was (1) a 4-Star General; (2) Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; (3) National Security Advisor; and (4) Secretary of State under 3 Republican Presidents will lose sleep over missing YOUR endorsement.

    January 13, 2013 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  10. Ancient Texan

    You could NEVER count on Hagel's vote in a tight situation, he would vote with the Dims everytime. He and Powell are both RINOs.

    January 13, 2013 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  11. empresstrudy

    Hagel's reputation as a manager is in fact, atrocious. He's well known to his peers to be abusive, cruel, violent, insulting. He's know to accuse staffers of the craziest things and then fire them routinely. He's known to randomly hurl out racist epthets and obscenities at whim and scream and rave around the office. He has the highest staff turnover of any Senator. Being Jennifer Lopez or Idi Amin may work if you're Jennifer Lopez or Idi Amin but the guys in the Pentagon are made of sterner stuff and tend not to cooperate with half psychotic prima donnas. Even if Hagel is approved his residency in the job will be short lived and ineffective. Obama will be pushed to dump him after an avalanche of complaints from the DoD.

    January 13, 2013 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  12. Steve

    McCain said he is interested in Hagel's "view of America's role in the world." I sure it doesn't meet McCain's war mongering view of us as murderous thugs who keep the rest of the world in terror of drone bomb attacks and determine for them, who their next leaders will be.

    January 13, 2013 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  13. Tom

    LOL. Senator Corker should question the Speaker of the House then, who told Senator Reid to "go F himself" during the fiscal cliff negotiations. I believe VP Cheney also told Senator Leahy to "f off" on the Senate floor. Lets not forget Representative Wilson who yelled "you lie" during President Obama's State of the Union speech. GMAB!

    January 13, 2013 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  14. N Vinny Veritas

    At long last Senator, have you no sense of decency ?

    January 13, 2013 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  15. Virginia Levin

    It amazes me that in our wonderful democratic country, anyone can criticize the USA, but if you dare criticize US’s blind support for Israel, then you will be attacked from every side. Hagel has proved himself again and again as a true American. BUT he said one slightly negative thing about the Israeli Lobby here, and now he is being grilled for it. Wow. Why can’t our leaders put the USA first in their hearts, their politics and their loyalty?

    January 13, 2013 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  16. Mforward2012

    Obstructing Appointments at record pace, Congratulations

    January 13, 2013 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  17. Evergreen

    If Hagel had been nominated by a republican administration McCain and others would be slapping him on the back and saying is he a great choice.

    January 13, 2013 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  18. E

    That's because Colin Powell, like Hagel - puts love of country over love of party. Confident he will be an outstanding SECDEF.

    January 13, 2013 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  19. Pander Bear

    Quote from Bob Corker: "It is not really our country so much is the problem, it's sort of the parasitic relationship that Canada, and France, and other countries have towards us."

    Who the heck is this guy to question anyone's 'temperament'?

    January 13, 2013 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  20. Ross P.Alander

    WOW these old GOP guys are coming up with whatever. First the Jewish lobby (there is a Catholic, James Dobson Christian lobby, etc. by the way) now it's temperament. I am so glad these Senators are qualified to determine this .As a Vietnam vet I totally support Senator Hagel who knows the horror of war much better than these "I have watched a lot of John Wayne WWII movies so I know war" chicken hawk Senators. In addition as an enlisted man (me also) he know the real soldier. Go Chuck for America vets.

    January 13, 2013 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  21. Rino

    The fact that Bibi and his right wing nut are against this guy is reason enough for me to be for him.

    January 13, 2013 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  22. Pete

    It's funny how republicans are perplexed about Hagels nomination but never questioned the idiots who welcomed your Mormon moron Romney,really pathedic how hypocritical they are toward one of their own..But republicans have been known to eat their own in putting Colin Powell a decorated military man in front of the UN general assembly and was told to pass on the lies fed him by Bush and Cheney thus ruining his political career..Bush and Cheney never did apoligize did they and laughed all the way to the bank and republicans know it going for the ride as well...So to all you republicans including posters you too have the blood of thousands of innocent military men,women on your hands because again your party is known as the warmongers and historical facts prove it!!

    January 13, 2013 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  23. whoosh

    I believe Gen Powell is still relevent and stood as an adult in the republicants partyroom on many occassions. Regardless of what party one affiiates with
    One must always think for themselves, independently from fools, hell bent on destruction. For that, he will always be a repubicant worthy of my highest
    Respect. Life is a two way street,one way is up, the other is down. You are either on one or on the way to the other, you will know which you were on
    At tbe end of the road you have travel.

    January 13, 2013 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  24. plain&simple

    Colin Powell is a smart and independent thinker,who uses his own brain in making his decisions and endorsements. That's called a leader! Same with Hagel. That's what has the lunatic fringe all riled up. They look to King Fox to know what to say and they are so afraid right now ...that their guns are their only friend. So sad to live in such fear,it consumes them.

    January 13, 2013 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  25. bellarue

    Colin Powell supported the man he believed offered the best vision for America. He was thinking about the welfare of the country rather than partisan party politics. Whether you share his views or not is another question. I respect his desire to see his country prosper, and so should you.

    January 13, 2013 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
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