Former Senator Chuck Hagel — President Obama’s nominee to be the next U.S. Secretary of Defense — had a terrible hearing on Capitol Hill today. It went worse than even Hagel’s critics expected and seems to have rattled those leaning towards supporting himi. CNN Congressional correspondent Dana Bash said Senators were “shocked” by how “ill-prepared” Hagel was. Liberal commentators on Twitter called Hagel’s performance a “disaster.”
For me, the performance further underscored why Hagel is a terrible choice to be the SecDef and will send exactly the wrong message to Iran and our other enemies around the globe.
- Hagel admitted to the Committee that he doesn’t “know much” about military programs and technology, reported the Weekly Standard. “I’ve said I don’t know enough about it,” Hagel said, in a response to Maine senator Angus King. “There are a lot of things I don’t know about. I, if confirmed, intend to know a lot more than I do. I will have to.”
- Hagel described the Iranian terror regime an “elected, legitimate government” and defended his vote not to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization.
- Hagel told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he supports President Obama’s policy of “containment” of Iran — the problem is that is not the President’s policy. The administration has a policy of ”prevention” (preventing Iran from building or obtaining nuclear weapons), not containing Iran once they have the Bomb. Hagel was clearly confused on the matter and had to be corrected by his staff, but even his correction was confusing.
- Hagel was asked directly by one Senator on the Committee, “Why do you think the Iranian foreign ministry so strongly supports your nomination to be the Secretary of Defense?”
- Hagel refused to say he was wrong or back down at all on his numerous assertions in the past that the surge in Iraq would be “the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam,” though he was given repeated opportunities to do so. Politico reports: “The tensest exchange came this morning when McCain, a defense hawk and outspoken supporter of the Iraq war, grew irate when Hagel wouldn’t say whether he believed the 2007 troop surge in Iraq helped stabilize that country. McCain demanded that Hagel answer the question, which the nominee refused to do. ‘Are you going to answer the question?’ McCain said, cutting off Hagel. ‘Let the record show that you refused to answer the question.’ ‘I’m not going to give you a yes or no,’ said Hagel. “I’ll defer that judgment to history.’”
- Hagel has been criticized by ”Senators in both parties with his use of the phrase the ‘Jewish lobby’ that has the ability to ‘intimidate’ members of Congress, in reference to the pro-Israel community,” noted Politico. “Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) engaged in a fast, trial-style questioning of Hagel, and aggressively pressed Hagel on his previous remark that the ‘Jewish lobby’ has intimidated some politicians to take unwise stances. ‘Name one person in your opinion who is intimidated by the Israeli lobby in the United States Senate?’ said Graham, who has served as a judge advocate in the Air Force. ‘I didn’t have in mind a specific person,’ said Hagel. ‘I cannot give you an example’ on what the Senate has done under pressure from the pro-Israel lobby.”
- Hagel was challenged by Texas Senator Ted Cruz Cruz on why in 2006 Hagel characterized an Israeli military action as a “sickening slaughter,” saying it sounded as if Hagel was accusing Israel of war crimes.