Chuck Hagel's hectoring aimed at Obama

US Senator Chuck Hagel testifies during a Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington, 31 January 2013 Mr Hagel went out of his way to stress had always been a "strong friend" of Israel

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The man President Barack Obama wants as his defence secretary has suffered a torrid time at the hands of his former colleagues.

You would never guess that Chuck Hagel had been a Republican senator for 12 years.

The men he once sat next to treated him as an ideological enemy with views that are repugnant. Some were also trying to settle personal scores with a man they regard as a turncoat.

In attacking him, they are also seeking to define Mr Obama - portraying his policies as defeatist and disloyal.

Mr Hagel had been under attack for claiming "the Jewish lobby" had too much influence on America's politicians.

Bumbling blandness

So he went out of his way to stress that he had always been a "strong friend" of Israel - underscoring the fact for some Republicans, any criticism of Israel's government is unacceptable.

A fellow Vietnam veteran, Senator John McCain, said he had fundamental questions about his one-time friend, who broke ranks with his party over Iraq.

He said he questioned Mr Hagel's judgment and his world view. He tore into the nominee for suggesting, at the time, that the Iraq surge was a potentially disastrous policy.

Sen McCain wanted only "yes" or "no" answers, not explanations. It is interesting that both men assumed the surge was beyond criticism. While it is unarguable that it was a military success, it is at least possible to contend it has had little long-term impact.


Repeatedly the senators insisted he gave a simple "yes" or "no" to complex questions. These are old men who hold themselves in high regard, but seem to see serious examination of difficult problems as a personal affront.

They desperately want to play "gotcha", but haven't the self-restraint to design effective questions. They love the sound of their own voices too much to trap their opponent.

Mr Hagel was equally unimpressive, almost unprepared, for a level of hostility that had been signalled long in advance. Neither smart, nor humble, his tactic seemed to be a kind of bumbling blandness.

The exception, in style if not ideology, was Ted Cruz, a new senator from Texas.

Razor sharp, he ripped into the nominee with all the skill honed as a Texas solicitor general, playing sequences from al-Jazeera where Mr Hagel appeared to agree America behaved like a bully in the world and that Israel was guilty of war crimes.

Rather than defend the views he expressed, the former senator suggested he hadn't understood the questions on the TV show.

"Highly troubling," was Sen Cruz's verdict.

That could be a verdict on the whole process, which has been used not to examine a candidate's fitness for high office, but to underline the rather obvious fact that the Obama administration does not share the world view of Republican senators, and they don't like their former colleague joining it.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    54 MagicKirin ‘Hagel will win nomination because the Dems will put party over country and not deny a (sic) Obama pick.’

    Or in English, Hagel will win nomination although the Reps will put party over country and try to deny an Obama pick.

    61 ‘Obama should listen to people far wiser than he’

    For those not fluent in Kirin, ‘wise’= ‘extreme rightwinger who ‘thinks’ like MK’’

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    226 Magic

    " we killed terorists like Bin Ladin and Al alwaski andyou should be on your knees like most of the world thanking us"

    No, we try and catch them alive and deliver them to the Hague to stand trial like any civilised society should. Hang them and ask questions later isn't how we behave. Nor do we use capital punishment any more. But Israel, N Korea and Somalia still do!

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.



    How does one make peace with human beings who are intent upon the total destruction of other human beings?

  • Comment number 233.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    These hearings add to the weight of the national GOP brand, a heavy penalty for candidates to carry. Scott Brown has announced he won't attempt a run to fill the senate seat being vacated by Kerry. Though the Ma. gubernatorial contest of 2014 would be relatively free from the penalty of the national brand-- he may not have had it with politics completely.

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    .At a time when Congress should be focused on passing a budget to avoid the looming fiscal cliff and its effect on the economy we are treated to the side show distraction of the Hagel confirmation. Conservatives should be delighted to have Obama nominate a Republican to manage their beloved Defense Dept, instead they're in a dither over his level of commitment to Israel. Who do they work for?

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    35 powermeerkat

    ‘Not a single qualified Democrat available for the position of the Secretary of DEFENSE?/Inquiring minds want to know why not./[after all not all Democrats were draft dodgers.]’

    Again a ludicrous leap of logic. There are many Dems amply qualified for the job. Obama is being bipartisan, and getting no thanks. As for draft dodgers – you mean GWB. Cheney, Quayle etc?

  • Comment number 229.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    226. MagicKirin
    2 MINS AGO

    Please explain why Israel has to be handcuffed by restraints and have demands no other country would be expected to accept.
    It has to treat human beings like human beings,
    It is that simple.
    It has habit of not doing that
    It is entitled to defend itself agrred
    but the settlement program, the attitude of dominance over Palistinians must stop.
    It's Gov behaves V Badly

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    Was your military oath to Israel or to the US Constitution? Mine was to the Constitution. George Washington was right to avoid entangling alliances and look to our defense not others' priorities. Anything else is unAmerican. We need to support Israel not to bend the knee to it, a friend NOT a subordinate.

  • Comment number 226.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    221. MagicKirin
    5 MINS AGO
    ref #220
    But for anyone to be against Israel means you support barbarism over the civilized person
    That implies a moral blank cheque is given to Israel.
    It's behavior unquestioned because it is Israel regardless of how well or badly it behaves.
    That is Israel's problem, the guilt others felt after WW2 and the requirement to support it, means it never has to improve

  • Comment number 224.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    74 mscracker
    So the 100s of thousands of liberal and socialist Jews of Israel, and the many liberal and Democratic voting Jews [a majority in the US] are all anti-Semites. This is a proposition worthy of the FOX/GOP/TEA/NRA Propaganda Network [and its representatives to be found on various blogs].

  • Comment number 222.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 221.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    40. gm I lost respect for him when he picked a subnormal running mate and adopted positions he had previously opposed for very good reason, and because he previously had integrity [or as much as an elected official can retain here].

    If sieuarlu & MK are for McCain and against Hegel, then the reasonable and correct position has to be anti-McCain and pro-Hegel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.


    You call all opponents terrorists. It's not cowardice in Europe, it's linguistic integrity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    34 powermeerkat ‘Down with Netanyahu!/Long Live Grand Ayatollah Ali Khomeini!’

    While in the circumstances it’s clear you're being sarcastic, this is a ludicrous and fairly typical dichotomy – ie if someone dares to question any policy of the current Israeli PM, it follows that they're a supporter of Iran. It doesn't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    ref #202 Far less in the U.S than in europe, the melting pot works here as it foes in Canada.

    We would never have someone as cluelssas catherin Ashton as our foriegn policy face and we call terrorist s terrorists something the EU is too cowardly to do.


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