After his rough Senate hearing, Chuck Hagel gets a boost from backers
His confirmation hearing performance was universally described as 'lackluster' at best – and far worse by many accounts. But Defense Secretary-nominee Chuck Hagel got some support Sunday, including another Republican backer in the Senate.
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But the line of inquiry that got the most attention was over the “surge” in Iraq, specifically Sen. John McCain’s sharp assertion that Hagel was “on the wrong side of history” in opposing the surge – and earlier than that, the former Nebraska Senator’s eventual opposition to the Iraq war itself.
To some observers, McCain’s attack on his one-time close friend and fellow Vietnam combat veteran seemed unnecessarily personal, focusing on an issue that most lawmakers (and most Americans) have gotten past regarding an unpopular war.
“This was a vanity thing for John McCain to try to prove to a former friend who disagreed with him that he was right on the surge and Chuck Hagel was wrong,” said Gibbs.
Writing in the American Prospect, Steve Ericson asserts that Sen. McCain has “allowed temperament, pique and ego to steamroll the judgment and perspective that we hope all of our elected officers have.” It’s the kind of charge made periodically over the years – including by the George W. Bush presidential campaign in 2000 – about McCain’s personality and temper, undoubtedly influenced by the captivity and torture he endured in North Vietnam.
But in the end, refighting the Iraq war and its surge (or the Vietnam War) is unlikely to determine whether or not Hagel – who’d become the first former enlisted man to become Defense Secretary – moves to the Pentagon.
More important may be the Republican votes he picks up, although those aren’t essential in a Senate that’s mostly Democratic.
"Chuck earned this endorsement," Sen. Johanns told the Lincoln [Nebraska] Journal Star.
Johanns said he received all the assurances he needed during a private one-hour meeting with Hagel that "he will stand side by side with our allies, be firm with our enemies and use good judgment" as secretary of defense, the newspaper reported.
"He was absolutely clear that he will be a strong defender of Israel, and that's very important to me," Johanns said. "He was absolutely clear that he believes the use of force must remain on the table as an option against Iran, and that's the position we must maintain."