Gibbs: Hagel seemed ‘unimpressive and unprepared’ for hearing

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Former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Sunday that former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) seemed “unimpressive and unprepared” in his confirmation hearings for Defense Secretary last week.

Hagel faced a tough eight-hour grilling by the Senate Armed Service Committee on Thursday, as lawmakers pressed him over controversial past statements on Iran and Israel.


Gibbs, a close advisor to President Obama, said during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet The Press” that Hagel’s performance was “disconcerting.”

“The disconcerting thing for anybody that watched it is he seemed unimpressive and unprepared on the questions that quite frankly he knew was coming,” Gibbs said.

Even as he criticized Hagel’s performance, however, Gibbs said pointed questions asked by GOP senators, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) like were “totally superfluous.”

Hagel endured his most heated exchange with McCain over the Iraq war surge, which Hagel had criticized as a senator and which McCain had backed.

“If you turned on C-Span and hadn’t watched TV in the intervening six years, you’d think we still had 150,000 troops parked in Iraq,” Gibbs said.  “The next Defense secretary is not going to deal with Iraq and the surge. This was a vanity thing for John McCain to try to prove to a former friend who disagreed with him that he was right on the surge and Chuck Hagel was wrong.”

Gibbs said he thought Hagel was correct to tell McCain “we’re going to let history judge Iraq.”