By Jonathan Easley - 01/09/13 02:06 PM EST
"My concern is on his position in regards to Iran," Cardin said on “Fox and Friends.” "He has not been supportive of action taken by the United States to impose sanctions, he believes that we should move only with the international community, and I believe it's important for the United States to lead in the effort to isolate Iran. So I have concern over his advice to the president in regards to that very dangerous country."
"My main concern is Iran," Cardin responded. "I believe he's pro-Israel, but it's of concern as to how he would advise the president on the use of our military in support of our relationship with Israel. That is a concern, particularly as it relates to Iran."
GOP lawmakers have raised questions about whether Hagel would be a strong ally of Israel, seizing on remarks he made in the past about the “Jewish lobby” intimidating Congress, and calling for the U.S. to engage diplomatically with Hamas and Iran.
While Hagel has strong support from the administration, a number of Democratic lawmakers have said they will withhold judgment until they hear more from the nominee, who is expected to face a contentious nomination.
Hagel has also faced criticism from gay-rights advocates over a comment he made in 1998, when he described openly gay ambassadorial nominee James Hormel as “aggressively gay” while explaining his opposition to Hormel's confirmation.
Hagel apologized earlier this month for the remark, but Cardin on Wednesday said that the issue raised questions about the nominee’s stance on gay military members serving openly.
"He's used language which I think is very unfortunate, not just once but at least on two occasions," Cardin continued. "For me, it's what is his position going to be in regards to the president's policies on gays in the military? How does he feel about that? What type of advice would he give the president? These are questions that he needs to answer."
The White House plans to push back against the criticism, touting Hagel’s record as a decorated former service member and highlighting the fact that he would be the first enlisted man to run the Pentagon.
Officials also say that Hagel’s views on Iran and Israel have been misrepresented, and Hagel told his home-state newspaper, the Lincoln Journal Star, that he's been "hanging out there in no man's land unable to respond to charges, falsehoods and distortions" and that he looks forward to "an opportunity to set the record straight."