Sen. Graham: Hagel’s views appear ‘well to the left’ of Obama

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday predicted former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) would face tough Republican opposition  if nominated to be President Obama’s next Defense secretary.

“A lot of Republicans are going to ask him hard questions,” said Graham on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” “And I don't think he's going to get many Republicans votes.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Hagel is believed to be on Obama’s short list to replace current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, but the former senator has come under fire from conservative groups for supporting U.S. talks with Hamas and Iran and for a past comment about the “Jewish lobby” intimidating lawmakers in Washington.

Graham on Sunday said that if nominated Hagel would be challenged to defend his foreign policy views to his former colleagues. 

“I like Chuck, but his positions I didn't really quite frankly know all of them, are really out of the mainstream and well to the left of the president. I think it would be a challenging nomination, but the hearings will matter, so Chuck will have a chance to defend himself.”

Asked if he could support Hagel, Graham insisted he would “wait and see what happens in the hearings.”

“But I've got questions about Chuck's view of Iran, the situation with Hamas and Hezbollah, his position toward Israel, Afghanistan. I want to hear what he has to say, but very troubling comments by a future Secretary of Defense,” he continued.

Hagel last week also apologized for comments made about former U.S. Ambassador James Hormel in 1998, when Hagel called the diplomat “openly aggressively gay.” The former senator had made the remark to the Omaha World-Herald in explaining his opposition to confirming Hagel as ambassador to Luxemborg. 

“My comments 14 years ago in 1998 were insensitive,” Hagel said in a statement Friday. “They do not reflect my views or the totality of my public record, and I apologize to Ambassador Hormel and any LGBT Americans who may question my commitment to their civil rights.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), also on NBC, declined to say if he would support Hagel for Defense secretary if he was nominated.

He said it would be Obama’s “choice” to nominate Hagel, but cautioned that senators would scrutinize the nominee’s record.

“I think once he makes it, his record will be studied carefully, but until that point I think we're not going to know what's going to happen,” said Schumer. “I'd have to study his record. I'm not going to comment until the president makes a nomination.”

Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter and former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy are also believed to be on Obama’s shortlist for the top Pentagon post.