I have one fundamental question that I asked myself on every vote I took, every decision made: Was the policy worthy of the men and women that we were sending into battle and surely to their deaths?
I saw it from the bottom. I saw what happens. I saw the consequences and the suffering and horror of war.
. . . I always ask the question: Is this going to be worth the sacrifice? Because there will be sacrifices.
~ Chuck Hagel, who served his country during Vietnam, and is now nominated for Secretary of Defense
Transcript of Chuck Hagel Confirmation Hearing for Secretary of Defense, via WSJ
SEN. MCCAIN: Will you please answer the question? Were you correct or incorrect when you said that the surge would
be the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam? Were you correct or incorrect?
MR. HAGEL: My –
SEN. MCCAIN: Yes or no?
MR. HAGEL: My reference to the surge being both dangerous –
SEN. MCCAIN: Are you going to answer the question, Senator Hagel? The question is, were you right or wrong? That’s a
pretty straightforward question.
MR. HAGEL: Well –
SEN. MCCAIN: I will — I would like to answer whether you were right or wrong, and then you are free to elaborate.
MR. HAGEL: Well, I’m not going to give you a yes or no answer on a lot of things today.
SEN. MCCAIN: Well, let the record show that you refused to answer that question.
Now please go ahead.
MR. HAGEL: Well, if you would like me to explain why –
SEN. MCCAIN: Oh, I actually would like an answer. Yes or no.
MR. HAGEL: Well, I’m not going to give you a yes or no.
SEN. MCCAIN: OK.
MR. HAGEL: I think it’s far more complicated than that. As I’ve already said, my answer is I’ll defer that judgment to history.
As to the comment I made about the most dangerous foreign policy decision since Vietnam — was about not just the surge but the overall war of choice going into Iraq. That particular decision that was made on the surge, but more to the point, our war in Iraq, I think was the most fundamentally bad, dangerous decision since Vietnam. Aside from the costs that occurred in this country to blood and treasure, aside what that did to take our focus off of Afghanistan, which in fact was the original and real focus of a national threat to this country — Iraq was not — I always tried to frame all the different issues before I made a decision on anything.
Now just as you said, Senator, we can have differences of opinion.
SEN. MCCAIN: But –
MR. HAGEL: That’s essentially why I took the position I did.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-SC: Explain this a bit. You said, ‘The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here.’ ‘I’m not an Israeli senator; I’m a United States senator.’ ‘This pressure makes us do dumb things at times.’ Name one person in your opinion who’s intimidated by the Israeli lobby.
MR. HAGEL:: Well, uh, first …
SEN. GRAHAM: Name one.
MR. HAGEL: (SHRUGGING) “Uh, I don’t know.”
Did anyone tell Chuck Hagel there would be questions?
~ Dave Weigel on Salon
This was maverick on maverick violence.
~ David Corn on MSNBC's Martin Bashir show
It's probably dawning on Sens. who didn't serve w/Hagel that he's just not very bright. Exchange w/McCain unresponsive & bumbling.
~ Brit Hume
. . . all the talk that the senators are shocked about how ill-prepared he is on some of the most basic controversial comments that he made that he and everyone knew were going to be coming at him from the likes of Senator John McCain and Lindsey Graham and others.
Even a Democrat who is on this committee who I spoke to who is supporting Hagel sort of shaking his head in disbelief saying he's surprised that he's not more forceful. And another undecided senator on this committee said that he had three different ways to answer the question on the surge, that he simply got into it on with John McCain.
~ CNN Reporter Dana Bash
The undercaffeinated Hagel was clearly over-rehearsed into a near stupor by his White House handlers. He was hardly impressive. But compared to his inquisitors, he was Churchill.
. . . So what if Hagel opposed the surge? The surge did not “win” the war as McCain would now have us believe; all the surge did was provide the cover that enabled us to pull out of the Iraq fiasco with some dignity intact and to spare Iraq hawks like McCain more humiliation. Hagel’s judgment on that war was far superior to most in his party, including McCain, and superior to that of some Democrats as well (including Hillary Clinton). I don’t agree with Hagel on everything, but I think he’s a good, hardheaded choice to run the Pentagon for Obama.
~ Frank Rich, NY Mag
To put it bluntly, Chuck Hagel did not acquit himself well. He was sluggish, tongue-tied and practically meek in the face of constant badgering by Republicans. He's far from the most dynamic speaker, stammers constantly and appears to agonize over every word he utters. This gave GOP Senators every opportunity to constantly interrupt him with even more leading and obnoxious questions.
. . . after a while, it was hard to figure out if Hagel was the nominee for secretary of defense or "Israel's new bestie", so obsessed were Republican Senators with how Hagel views the US-Israel relationship. It was a demoralizing spectacle.
~ Michael Cohen, Guardian UK
Hagel didn’t help himself with a confused, stumbling appearance yesterday in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Admittedly, the SFRC was infested with what seemed to rabid jackals, extreme-right Republicans like Ted Cruz of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, along with John McCain of Arizona, still fighting the long-lost Iraq war.
But Hagel, rather than take any of them on, shucked and jived his way through the ordeal. It was the Apology Tour, during which Hagel alternately apologized for having semi-progressive views on issues such as Israel and Iran or, otherwise, denied he had them.
~ Robert Dreyfuss on The Nation
In the end John McCain thanked Chuck Hagel for coming in for the hearings, because he got to do what he loves best-- talk about The Surge™.— Top Conservative Cat (@TeaPartyCat) February 1, 2013
This is basically a score-settling between McCain and Hagel over the surge in Iraq. Party like it's 2007!— Mike O'Brien (@mpoindc) January 31, 2013
McCain is getting worse. Acerbic, bitter and rude. Putting #Hagel in a box on the surge was a set-up. Wouldn't even listen to answer.— Alyce ♒ (@Chocolatemama38) January 31, 2013
Shorter John McCain: You can try and answer Chuck Hagel but I'm going tokeep interrupting you so I can have something to talk about on MTP— SpreadTheWord (@word_34) January 31, 2013
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee coulda saved a lot of video tape and just made this whole Hagel thing a Yes or No questionnaire.— Alex Wagner (@alexwagner) January 31, 2013
Chuck Hagel's confirmation hearing is evidence of Republicans eating their own when they disagree. McCain is basically jealous.— John Dean (@JohnWDean) February 1, 2013
Watching Senators nudge, bully cajole Hagel away from any heterodoxy and towards bankrupt bipartisan consensus is a depressing spectacle.— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) January 31, 2013
Inhofe quotes Jennifer Rubin column in questioning Hagel. This explodes any drinking game. #DingDingDing— David Corn (@DavidCornDC) January 31, 2013
Though I respect Senator Hagel, his record to date demonstrates that he would be a staunch advocate for the continuation of the misguided policies of the president's first term, retreating from America's unique global leadership role and shrinking the military would not make America safer. On the contrary, it would embolden in our enemies, endanger our allies and provide opportunity for nations that do not share our interests to fill a global leadership vacuum we leave behind. It is for these reasons that I believe that he is the wrong person to lead the Pentagon at this perilous and consequential time.
~ Senator James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, Ranking Member of Armed Services Committee
Ted Cruz, with no military service, disparages SenKerry and SenHagel, who've each been awarded five service medals. politicolnews.com/ted-cruz-no-mi…— Bretta Applebaum (@BrettaApplebaum) February 1, 2013
If u need 2 have ur stomach turned watch this video of Sen. Cruz interrogating Hagel about his hatred 4 America &Israel livewire.talkingpointsmemo.com/entry/ted-cruz…— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) January 31, 2013
Hagel has either decided that the best way out of the Jewish Lobby thicket is to shrug and punt, or he's not a genius.— daveweigel (@daveweigel) January 31, 2013
Hagel, oy— Sam Stein (@samsteinhp) January 31, 2013
Ted Cruz is so hilarious, he's moving into Allen West territory— Markos Moulitsas (@markos) January 29, 2013
This is bottom of the barrel stuff from Ted Cruz: playing Al Jazeera random caller asking Hagel a question.— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) January 31, 2013
After watching clips of Hagel today, I suggest that President Obama nominate a kumquat. Would be a significant IQ upgrade.— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) February 1, 2013
I'm all for asking Hagel, but I don't think it matters who the secretary of defense is, folks.
Look, I know a lot of people get caught up in this, but Obama is the secretary of defense. Obama is the secretary of commerce. Obama is the secretary of state. These people are the fall guys for when things go wrong. But Obama's running everything here. The reason Chuck Hagel's gonna be secretary of defense is when something goes wrong, he's gonna take the blame for it. He's the fall guy. It's the same thing with Kerry at secretary of state. That's all that's happening here.
. . . Chuck Hagel is being ripped to shreds. Senator McCain ripping him to shreds for his use of the term "the Jewish lobby." Hagel said, "I only said that once in my whole career." But a lot of people are dumping on Hagel. All I need to know, folks, is Marco Rubio just said he's voting against Hagel. So I would, too, then. If Rubio's against Hagel, I'm against Hagel. Ahem. (I'm winking here, folks. Don't tell anybody. This is just between us.) At any rate, Hagel is the placeholder. John Kerry is the placeholder.
~ Rush Limbaugh