Hagel Faces Tough Questions at Nomination Hearing: VOA Recap & News Roundup

Hagel Faces Tough Questions at Nomination Hearing by Michael Bowman, Voice of America.

Senate confirmation of President Barack Obama’s pick to be U.S. defense secretary remains uncertain amid a contentious hearing before the Armed Services Committee. Former Republican senator Chuck Hagel faced hours of intense and sometimes combative questioning from one-time colleagues.
If Hagel’s goal for his confirmation hearing was to win the backing of Republican lawmakers, his exchange with Senator John McCain seemed ominous.

McCain repeatedly asked if Hagel regretted his opposition to the 2007 U.S. troop surge in Iraq. “The question is: were you right or wrong? That is a pretty straightforward question.”

Hagel declined to answer. “I am not going to give you a ‘yes or no.’  I think it is far more complicated than that. As I have already said, my answer is: I will defer that judgment to history,” Hagel said.

McCain fired back. “I think history has already made a judgment about the surge, sir. And you are on the wrong side of it.  And your refusal to answer whether you were right or wrong is going to have an impact on my judgment as to whether to vote for your confirmation or not,” McCain said.

Hagel was also put on the defensive over past votes and statements concerning Iran’s nuclear program, Iran’s backing for international terrorism, Israel’s influence in U.S. politics, and the necessity of America’s nuclear arsenal. Hagel repeatedly proclaimed his support for Obama administration policies, regardless of past statements or actions.

“I am on the record on many issues. But no one individual vote, no one individual quote, no one individual statement defines me,” Hagel said.

Republican Senator James Inhofe was not impressed. “Senator Hagel’s record is deeply troubling and out of the mainstream. Too often, it seems, he is willing to subscribe to a worldwide view that is predicated on appeasing our adversaries while shunning our friends,” Inhofe said.

Hagel rejected the allegation. “My overall worldview has never changed: that America has and must maintain the strongest military in the world, that we must lead in the international community to confront threats and challenges together,” Hagel said.

The hearing was not entirely hostile. Democratic Senator Carl Levin noted Hagel’s service as an enlisted soldier in the Vietnam War.

“It would be a positive message for our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in harm’s way around the world to know that one of their own holds the highest office in the Department of Defense, and that he has their backs,” Levin said.

Hagel appears to have the support of Democratic senators, who hold a majority in the Senate. But he would need at least five Republican votes for confirmation if any senator used a procedural maneuver to force a three-fifths vote on his nomination.  He would succeed outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

More Here:

Hagel Faces Tough Questions at Nomination Hearing - VOA

Senators Press Hagel During Confirmation Hearing - WP

Hagel’s Views Come Under Harsh Scrutiny by Republicans - NYT

Recap: Chuck Hagel Confirmation Hearing - WSJ

Hagel Faces Barrage of Criticism During Tense Confirmation Hearing - Fox

McCain Pounds Hagel in Senate Confirmation Hearing - CSM

Hagel, GOP Senators Butt Heads at Defense Secretary Confirmation - ABC

Under Fire from Republicans, Hagel Ends Marathon Confirmation Hearing - NBC

Tense Confirmation Hearing Tests SecDef Hagel on Record, Comments - S&S

Hagel Grilled By Fellow Republicans At Conformation Hearing - NPR

Pentagon Nominee in Testy Hearing - BBC

Hagel Feuds With 'Old Friend' McCain Over Iraq Surge Policy - SFC

Chuck Hagel Stumbles on Iran Questioning - Politico

Hagel Vows Policies Worthy of US Service Members, Families - AFPS

Hagel: Iran Has ‘Elected, Legitimate’ Government - WFB

Who Won the Chuck Hagel-John McCain Surge Fight? - USN&WR opinion

Chuck Hagel, An Antiwar Secretary of Defense - LAT opinion

Hagel Defense Nomination Will Pass - USAT opinion

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Hagel's confirmation would not be a positive for Army Vietnam Vets. I am opposed to Chuck Hagel's confirmation for SECDEF. My reasons are more personal than his position on Israel, Iraq, Iran, gays, or terrorist groups. I was in the same battalion in Vietnam but a different company. In the December issue of Vietnam Magazine, at page 19, Chuck Hagel describes a helicopter that was shot down with his battalion commander on board. The Battalion Commander was General Westmoreland's brother in law. He was KIA in the crash. There were 10 Americans on board with 3 survivors. I was one of the survivors. Chuck Hagel says he remembers it well and he and his brother Tom were right there. Chuck Hagel says it was May 68. The crash was on 3 July 68. Chuck Hagel says it was a bubble helicopter shot down in the Saigon River. It was a Command and Control HUEY shot down in the Vam Co Dong River southeast of the Ben Luc Bridge. Chuck Hagel says his brother Tom was shot (his 3rd Purple Heart) while trying to swim out and rescue the Battalion Commander. I was in the water. SGT Curtis Buck swam out to help me ashore. I do not remember another swimmer in the water. Chuck Hagel's confusion concerning the date and location of this action makes me question whether he was even there. I saw his story as an embellishment of events to place himself close to General Westmoreland. I would have let it go as bad memory, except for the way he described his fellow soldiers in another interview.

In a 2002 Veterans History Project interview, Chuck Hagel describes the soldiers he served with and went on patrol with as drunked up, drugged up, worthless to him, a hindrance, dangerous. He describes WW11 vintage NCOs, "they couldn't quite understand what was happening." He discusses his frustration with invisible battalion leaders and a lack of confidence in the officer corps. However, in the same interview Chuck Hagel describes a "bait" patrol he was on. He thinks he hears the enemy. He moves his position and in doing so leaves his radio and claymores to fall into enemy hands. I believe he had a "John Kerry" moment when it was to his benefit to characterize his fellow soldiers as drunked up, drugged up, worthless, etc. I was in a sister company of the same battalion and in the field saw none of what he described. The company I was in had an excellent 1SG, with outstanding officers, NCOs, and soldiers. He does not speak for me. The officers and NCOs I was with would not have tolerated such behavior. I can only believe that Squad Leader Chuck Hagel must have tolerated such behavior and may have been part of the problem. I believe he sees himself a hero with two Purple Hearts but at the same time degrades the service of fellow soldiers.

He has been invited to our 47th Infantry Regimental Reunions at Fort Benning. He has not attended. I believe he would have difficulty face to face with some really good NCOs and officers who were there at the same time and place and might take exception to his condescending remarks. Purple Hearts are respected but do not qualify anyone to do anything in particular, let alone be SECDEF. I have written Senator Lindsey Graham requesting a No Vote on any confirmation of Chuck Hagel as SECDEF. Chuck Hagel is not a positive with respect to his view of those he served with. He has to tear us down in order for him to look good.