The nomination of Hagel
will probably spark a bitter confirmation battle because of Hagel's
criticism of the Iraq war, his views on Iran, remarks about the Israel lobby, and several other issues.
Senator Majority leader Mitch McConnell has been taking a softer approach than some of his colleagues. Although he said on ABC's This Week that Hagel had been outspoken on some foreign policy issues, he wanted to see if Hagel's views make sense for the job of secretary of defense. McConnell also said that the job demands a complete understanding of the U.S. relationship with Israel and also the threat Iran poses. While this is an implied criticism of some of Hagel's views, it is far from the openly hostile remarks made by many of his senate colleagues and other prominent Republicans. McConnell's remarks about Hagel back in 2007 were far more favorable.
In May 2007, according to the Nebraska Journal Star, at a fund-raiser in downtown Omaha, McConnell praised Hagel as "one of the premier foreign policy voices" and also as "a man of extraordinary principle" who says what he actually believes. No doubt, this is a characteristic that is causing trouble for his nomination now! McConnell also described Hagel as a thoughtful conservative Republican. Even then, there were critics of Hagel who thought that he was not much of a Republican. McConnell claimed he was an indispensable member of the Republican team.
In an interview after the fund-raiser
, McConnell also pointed out:
“Many of the predictions Chuck Hagel made about the war came true. They have proved to be accurate.”
Hagel actually voted in favor
of the US invasion of Iraq. His criticism came afterward.
McConnell had high praise
for Hagel when he retired too.
“In two terms in the Senate, Chuck has earned the respect of his colleagues and risen to national prominence as a clear voice on foreign policy and national security. He has consistently fought to expand free trade, particularly with Vietnam. Chuck’s stature as a leading voice in foreign affairs has earned him a reputation, in just 12 years in the Senate, as one of Nebraska’s great statesmen. This is a tribute to his intelligence, hard work, and devotion to a country that he has served his entire adult life.”
The then Senate minority whip, Republican Jon Kyl
from Arizona said:
“When Senator Hagel came to the Senate, his actions often reflected his experience as a combat veteran. He did what he believed was best for the men and women in uniform, and he defended his positions forcefully. Senator Hagel has continued to protect and defend the country, notably through his work on the Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committees. He had strong opinions, and he was never shy about letting them be known.”
Now some of those very same opinions will be brought forth as reasons not to have him made Minister of Defense.
Another Senator Lamar Alexander
also spoke of Hagel in fulsome praise:
“Senator Hagel’s heroism and service serving side by side with his brother in Vietnam is one of the most fascinating, heroic stories of any member of the Senate. With that sort of independent background, you can imagine he brought to this body a sense of independence, a great knowledge of the world… [H]e understands the world better than almost anyone, and he works hard at it. He has been independent in his views, willing to criticize those he thought were wrong, including those in his own party. … We will miss Senator Hagel.”
Now that Hagel is being nominated by Obama, times have changed. Characteristics that before were praised will now be used as reasons to attack Hagel on every issue in which he disagreed with the Republican majority policy, because he was principled, thoughtful, and independent.