Missouri Senator Clare McCaskill, a Democrat on the senate committee charged with overseeing former Senator Chuck Hagel’s confirmation hearing to become the next secretary of defense Thursday, summed up the day-long proceedings in one sentence:
“Chuck Hagel is much more comfortable asking questions than answering them,” McCaskill said on Andrea Mitchell Reports Thursday. “That’s one bad habit you get into when you’ve been in the Senate—you can dish it out but sometimes it’s a little more difficult to take it.”
Hagel’s exchanges with members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, particularly one heated back-and-forth with his former colleague Sen. John McCain over Hagel’s opposition to the 2007 troop surge in the Iraq War, became the focal point of the more than eight hours of testimony and questioning. McCain, a strong supporter of the surge, pressed the former Nebraska senator, “Were you right? Were you correct in your assessment?” Hagel rebutted, “I would defer to the judgment of history to sort that out.”
During the afternoon session, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) challenged Hagel to “name one dumb thing we’ve been goaded into doing because of pressure from Israel or the Jewish lobby,” harkening back to a 2006 interview in which Hagel said, ‘The political reality is … that the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here.” Hagel has since said he meant to say “pro-Israel lobby,” a correction he repeated in Thursday’s hearing.