Hagel hints he would endorse Bloomberg over Trump or Cruz

Getty Images

Former Defense Secretary Chuck HagelChuck HagelCreating a future for vets in DC Republicans back Clinton, but will she put them in Pentagon? There's still time for another third-party option MORE said Friday that he would consider backing Michael Bloomberg for president if the Republican party nominates either businessman Donald TrumpDonald TrumpThird-party candidate McMullin: We can win Idaho and Wyoming Pence's plane skids off runway in New York Trump lashes out over 'illegal' Access Hollywood tapes MORE or Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzDemocrats pounce on Cruz's Supreme Court comments Brent Budowsky: An epic battle for the future of Congress Cruz: Precedent exists for keeping Supreme Court short-staffed MORE (R-Texas), according to the New York Times.

“Ted Cruz talks about carpet-bombing the Middle East,” Hagel said in an interview with the Times. “Does he understand, if that was initiated, the consequences of that? Donald Trump’s way of handling immigrants, Muslims — those are just not realistic. They’re dangerous.”

Before Hagel served as Pentagon chief in the Obama administration, he was a Republican senator from Nebraska. Since leaving his cabinet post last year, he has been critical of the president.

Hagel praised Bloomberg, who he had considered running with when the former New York mayor flirted with an independent presidential campaign in 2008.

"He understands governing,” Hagel said of Bloomberg. “He understands leadership. He understands people. He’s got the qualities that are required for the presidency, starting with character.”

Last week, the New York Times reported that Bloomberg would consider a third-party run for president if the general election matchup ended up being Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) against either Cruz or Trump.

Hagel on Friday said the former mayor would be well-prepared in such an event and would not rush into a decision.

“He’s not going to dive off a high-dive here with just a pool of hope underneath him,” he said.